A newer opportunity for sport promotion specialists is the distribution of game content via live webcasts of major sporting events. 46 individual sport organizations that control the rights to their own games are currently exploring the capabilities of the technology. Through webcasting, niche sports, which typically would not draw the interest of TV audiences in large enough numbers to justify live coverage, have an opportunity to draw audiences to their events. The 2000 Paralympics in Sydney was one of the first major world sporting events to experiment with live webcasting. There were 12 hours a day of live coverage for the duration of the Games. This is in contrast to the coverage the Paralympics received in 1996, when they were televised in the United States for a mere 4 hours on CBS and for 9 hours on regional cable TV. Organizations wishing to promote events that will never make traditional TV can use webcasting to allow fans to listen to or watch a sport or event. The desire of sport sponsors to reach more specific target audiences associated with niche or regional sports, such as lacrosse, will give sport organizations the opportunity to create sponsorship packages that will cover the costs of webcasting.
Glasgow Celtic used webcasting for a UEFA Cup match against A.S. La Jeunesse D’Esch in August 2000. The webcast was on the Celtic Web site (www.celticfc.co.uk) and was offered free of charge to about 15,000 users. Although this initial experiment was free, sport promotion specialists will undoubtedly recognize the potential of generating income from such webcasting.
Sports with lesser profiles aren’t the only ones using webcasts. CBS offered webcasts of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, one of the highest-rated televised sporting events. Because many people interested in watching games were at work, webcasts provided greater exposure for the event and sponsors. One unique aspect of the webcast was the inclusion of the boss button, developed for viewers of weekday games. The controversial feature covered up the basketball game and made a generic spreadsheet immediately pop up on the computer screen.
Similarly, ESPN provided the first live webcasts of the 2006 FIFA World Cup available in the United States, simulcasts of all the ESPN and ESPN2 games, in an attempt to build its ESPN broadband service. This scenario raises interesting questions for leagues and their collective bargaining structure of media rights. With quality video streaming available to millions around the globe, the stakes will be so high that the allegiance of many clubs to the collective ethos of various leagues may come under severe strain.
Wireless brands have long supported sport as sponsors, but the dynamic is drastically changing as mobile devices become content delivery tools.50 According to a Turnkey Sports poll of 400 senior-level sport industry executives, almost 50 percent said that mobile devices are the media platform that offers the biggest growth potential for sport advertising. In 2005, consumers spent approximately $75 million on the sport mobile market, including licensed sport ring tones and wallpaper, information applications (scoring updates, news, real-time game trackers), and games, and the amount was expected to double in 2006. Analysts have a difficult time gauging the amount spent on delivery of mobile video content but estimate it was around $100 million in 2005, and McKinsey and Company project that it will jump to $3 billion by 2008. The NFL has granted teams the right to cut their own wireless content deals, which are expected to average $500,000 in new revenue. The NBA, NFL, NHL, NASCAR, MLB, and ESPN are all involved in various ways with wireless content delivery.
In addition, it appears that many are conducting business transactions on mobile devices. As mobile Internet penetration has grown, so too will m-commerce (mobile phone commerce). Indeed, some suggest that m-commerce will far outstrip e-commerce in terms of the amount of commercial activity generated. More than half of Americans use wireless devices, providing a user base for a platform that is growing exponentially. The opportunities for sport promotion specialists would appear to be unlimited considering that fans can use wireless mobile devices to access a sport organization’s broadband Web site and view a game or highlights of an event.