What is the future of sport and media?

Trying to correctly predict the future of sport and media might be a daunting affair as the pace of technological disruptions and transformations rising from the digital revolution appears to be ever increasing. For instance, taking Nicholas Negroponte’s famous analysis on Being Digital – a work written in the mid-90s just before the dot-com bubble – there are some prognosis of our future relationship with media technologies that ended materialising themselves, but others are yet to take place.

Maybe, a simpler exercise for predicting the future of sport and media would be to avoid a technological deterministic position as trying to forecast the technologies themselves, and approach it via how users of those digital technologies incorporate them on the cultural fabric of consuming and producing media content. In a way, trying to predict how people live in media rather than through media technologies (Deuze, 2011).

As originally the word denoted, media as the plural of medium is something that existed in-between and helped connect distant individuals. In a sense, media have the quality of putting people together on a moment that is shared by all users, as allowing them to revive a real or imaginary past (eg books) and experiencing and co-creating a live event (eg telephone call, watching sport). Hence, it is possible to talk of media – being them technologically digital or analogue – as affording users to be apart together. Or as John Tomlinson (2007) conceptualises as telepresence – the ability of being constantly in touch without being physically in touch.

In terms of the future of sport and media, reviving the past might be still considered as a niche market as through the use of blockchain technologies for the commercialisation of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) of special moments such as replays and other collectable digital items. However, the more mainstream form of consuming sport in media happens live – even Negroponte acknowledged that at the moment he predicted that on-demand would dominate the digital media landscape – and seeks to mimic the real life experience of being physically there.

Hence, the future of digital media in sport would evolve towards a more true to life experience. We can even attest that by looking at how different technologies evolved in the favoured medium of TV with high definition and ultra-high definition images, and surround and Dolby Atmos sound systems. Nevertheless, whilst audio capabilities have evolved towards a more multi-dimensional sensorial experience (eg we might even sense that there is really someone behind us when watching a movie), our visual experience is still dominated by the flat screens (eg TV, laptop, tablet, phone) we have in front of us – thus very one dimensional.

If the future of consuming sport in media is to mimic with a higher degree of reality our experience of being there, then the visual stimuli will have to match our multi-dimensional experience of living without media. Using football (it can be soccer, American football, or even rugby union) as an example, when seeing the game live in a stadium fans are able to see the whole picture – and here I mean the whole pitch with all the 22 and 30 players respectively – and decide what interest them. Moreover, the experience is multi-dimensional as players move into different axes allowing us to perceive and recreate visual representations of those objects in relation to others and our own position as observer.

In a way, the challenge for the future of sport and media is to recreate the entire stadium experience in our living room. And for me it would look like something as this scene from Star Wars:

The future of sports broadcasting might look like this – Han Solo and Chewbacca playing Holochess on Solo: A Star Wars Story

What are your thoughts? Would future media technologies be able to recreate true to life sport experiences in our living room? Or is this just science fiction?

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