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CES 2014: 3 Tech Trends Shaping the Future of Sports

I spent a whirlwind few days at CES last week, geeking out at the plethora of new-age gadgets and thankfully dodging the arctic vortex that gripped most of the country. I also moderated a panel called “Using Technology and Big Data to Enhance the Fan Experience,” which brought together great minds from Cisco, the NBA and Optimum Sports for a lively discussion at the OMD Oasis Powered by GMR.

Our focal point: the fan experience. As HDTVs, tablets and real-time content make the at home sports experience better, live venues are responding by improving their technology as well. Arenas in 2014 will give fans the best of both worlds—the thrill of the live game plus the technology to stay connected.

Between this panel and all the new tech on display, I came away from CES extremely excited about the future of the sports fan experience. Here are 3 trends that I’m convinced are going to shape that evolution.

#1 Wearable Tech: A Win for Fan Data

Arguably the biggest trend in gadgets this year, wearable tech tracks data from your workout (and life!) while you wear it, from earbuds that track fitness stats, to gloves that monitor motion, to HD cameras sleekly packed into goggles.

The NBA and NFL are already delivering a small taste of the future here—but wearable tech means that fans, players and teams alike are about to gain a whole new level of access to dynamic data.

Imagine being able to analyze every player’s running speeds, heart rates, tackles, hits, throws, reaction time and more—then aggregate it, use it for team strategy and personal training, and make it available to stats-hungry fans. It’s a win-win.


#2 High Tech Stadiums: Catching Up with the Living Room

The in-home viewing experience gets more impressive every year. Bendable TVs that give a 3D-like picture? Ultra-high-def 4K and 8K TVs? CES proved that almost-better-than-real-life picture quality will be here in no time.

In short: get ready for sports fans to see more of what they want.

But crisp definition, surround sound, super clean graphics, instant replays—all these advances for the TV viewer come together to create an arguably better viewing experience in the living room than you often get from the bleachers, or even from behind home plate.

That means stadiums, arenas and fields have to up their game, and bring the on-premise experience up-to-date if they want to compete. And that’s exactly what they’re doing. We’ll see venues adding high-density wifi coverage, Bluetooth-powered engagements and personalization, and more ways to participate in the action—like additional camera angles and instant replays right on mobile devices.

#3: Tablets, Tablets, Tablets: Mobile Content is Still King

Bigger tablets, smaller tablets, tablets built for gaming, tablets that double as laptops—like last year, the tablet options at CES 2014 were endless.

This continued market emphasis on mobile devices follows the trend we’re seeing in live sports viewing: the overwhelmingly popular use of second screens both at home and in-venue. It’s not hard to believe that over 85% of fans attending a live event carry a mobile device with them, and many will use it to access game-related content while they watch live.

The second screen is extremely important during live-action events because it lets you supplement a live broadcast without missing any of the action. As the second screen is recognized not as a supplement to the fan experience, but as part of it, we’ll see an even greater focus on real-time sharing, engagement, interaction, and exclusive content—for fans in the stadium, at home, or even on the go.

In short: get ready for sports fans to see more of what they want: better access, better content, and better engagement with the teams they love.

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