Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Digital age of sports

I came across this article about Turner Sports offering an app that allows multi-platform users to watch live streams of the upcoming US NCAA March Madness games. While I lament that the service will no longer be free (if you hadn't noticed yet, I am an advocate of free everything), I would focus instead on how technology has revolutionized the way we follow sports.

The March Madness app is nothing new. Over the past few years, we have seen major American sports (NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB) move from cable TV to the web to mobile. The NBA League Pass, for example, allows subscribers to watch numerous NBA games daily on their PC/iPad/iPhone/Android. Indeed, these are fairly amazing times for technology. The only regret I have is that they didn't have this during Michael Jordan's heyday. During the holidays, I remember my cousins from Houston watching the Texans-Bengals NFL wildcard live on their Mac via their NFL Game Pass subscription. We didn't even have the game on our cable subscription (I'm not sure if any of the local cable channels offered the wildcard games) but it didn't pose any barrier to them watching their home team play. They literally brought the NFL games with them. I'm sure any sports fan will tell you that missing a playoff game is quite a pain. Well, it's not much of a problem these days.

Did anybody really think we would get here? Think about it. Just a decade ago, the closest thing we had was getting (delayed) score updates from Globe or Smart at PhP2.50/text. Heck, that's all that was technologically possible at the time because our cellular phones only had monochrome graphic displays! We gradually saw the shift to real-time Gamecasts (available via the ESPN Score app), ideal for 3G networks. It has served me well over the last couple of years: I no longer had to worry about missing the Spurs' playoff games because I get real-time updates on my phone. Now we have live streaming and replays, which should be more enjoyable once 4G becomes the norm. The technology boom has been fantastic for NBA fans — with an onslaught of games every night, you can watch three games at once (one on your TV, one on your computer, and one on your iPad), catch up on games you missed (through those valuable League Pass replays), or sneak peeks on your iPhone/Android (while stuck in typical EDSA traffic).

You always hear about players wanting to play in bigger markets, but the reality is that once technology progresses to a certain level, markets will stop mattering as much. In 2010 alone, it was reported that the league topped 1.9 billion in video streams. So yeah, the Lakers and Knicks will always outspend everyone else because of their ticket/cable revenue, and yeah, players will always gravitate toward big cities, warm weather or tax-free states. But from a visibility standpoint, it doesn't matter where you play in 2012 — perhaps much less so come 2015. Our marquee contenders are Miami, Chicago… and Oklahoma City. Our marquee superstars are LeBron, Wade, Kobe, CP3, Rose, Dwight… and Kevin Durant.


Francis Paolo Tiopianco, Entry #10

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