Watching live games in stadiums or at home isn’t for everyone. But if you’re a network operator looking to deploy 5G services, you need to be a sports fan as streaming contests will play a crucial role in your high-speed wireless strategy.
Many operators worldwide see live sports streaming as a means to showcase 5G for the masses, and as a way to begin generating revenue to pay down large incurred deployment costs.
Live sports make for a great proving ground as content owners and licensees are among the most aggressive explorers of emerging technologies as a means to retain, entertain and captivate their consumers audiences. Many venue owners already have experience with streaming, multi-platform marketing, virtual reality (VR)/augmented reality (AR), often-worldwide content distribution, and high-speed wireless services.
Global research and consultancy Ovum concluded that “planning their 5G networks around sports will reap benefits for operators.” In its discussions with these and a large number of additional operators worldwide, as part of a study commissioned by Amdocs, Ovum has discovered that many more operators’ network plans are already being heavily influenced by sports. Amdocs is a maker of software and services for network operators.
Global survey says
The Ovum study for Amdocs surveyed C-level executives from among the world’s 100 largest telecom operators on a number of topics and concluded 5G’s emergence should be clear by the time of the Olympics in Tokyo and the European soccer championships in 2020. “More than a quarter of the operators expect to introduce 5G service tied to the Olympics starting next July,” the study revealed. But altogether, “91% plan to go to trial with 5G deployments for sports and esports before the end of next year.”
Sports fans in the stand and at home have already been to exposed to emerging and immersive viewing features and video interaction. Fan engagement with social media, as well as use of team and stadium apps, have already gained traction and generated solid revenues thanks to data-powered marketing programs, and accompanying sponsorships.
Venues owners have aggressively implemented and upgraded wireless networks and distributed antenna systems to keep ahead of customer demand. Many NFL stadiums, for example, are equipped with UHD TV screens, 360-degree video replay camera systems and GPON networks to tie everything together.
Also consider that the four major pro sports in the U.S. already have significant real-world use of VR under their belts, having teamed with VR vendors to broadcast part or all of select contests using it to provide fans a more immersive viewing experience.
Among business of technology-focused execs, AR has already begun to make a mark in competitive events and promises to help enhance sports broadcasting, sports marketing, and fantasy sports, all of which are capable of generating revenue sooner rather than later.
Now be aware that sports teams that started using analytics to help them win on the field have expanded their use to analyzing fan data to reap revenues from all the tech features and capabilities that they have added to their stadiums.
Big spending for big returns
Network operators have almost always lost sleep over the deployment of new technologies in their networks as they tried to avoid slow to monetize and/or stranded investment. With 5G, U.S. carriers have already spent tens of billons on spectrum alone. Now add on the anticipated cost of subsidizing 5G devices for consumers.
Streaming live sports, and the sponsorship opportunities that come with them represent large revenue opportunities, especially for multi-week global sports events such as March Madness, the World Cup, the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
A world stage
This live sports focus will shine a bright spotlight on 5G services from network operators.
“It’s essential for operators to find successful use cases for 5G given the investment levels,” explained Gary Miles, Chief Marketing Officer for Amdocs. “Operators have identified these events as the springboard for rollout of a whole range of new interactive and immersive services. This will give consumers their first real taste of what 5G can deliver and allow operators to showcase the capabilities of their next-generation networks.”
The esports opportunity
The rapid global rise of interest in esports has already caught the attention of network operators who realize zero latency and extra high-speed links are required. With esports, teams compete locally or across long distances, with fans attending the events in the stadiums where games are played, or linking in from home.
Operators feel these calling card requirements are a perfect match for 5G as conceived and see wireless replacing at least part of the esports ecosystem, which was initially built on broadband landline services.
This tracks with results of the Amdocs survey, which claimed that “the most surprising growth prognosis for 5G may be in esports.” The survey revealed that “virtually all operators (97%) plan 5G upgrades, and envision becoming tech partners to organizers.”
Tech partnerships benefits sports entities by supply them the enabling infrastructure they need to connect fans, engage them, and drive a return on experience.