The Digital Society: The rise of “new” forms of Media within the present Sport Media Ecology

This is the second instalment of a 6-part series aiming to explore the historical, current and future symbiosis between sport and media by analysing the media and digital transformations that have developed within the sport industry and sport media ecology.

My previous post highlighted how the mass media has been a significant and constant companion in the development of professional sport where centralised and uni-directional content and coverage was distributed to the undifferentiated masses through the predominant mediums of TV, Newspapers and Radio.

However, this traditional media ecology has been disrupted exponentially since the 1990s by the emergence of web 2.0 and subsequent invention and adoption of new digital media technologies. We now live in a digital society affected by digitally networked communication tools and platforms, such as the internet and social media which form a complex interactive network of communication. A greater amount of sport content can now be delivered to larger audiences via mobile phones, laptops and tablets, digital radio, subscription and interactive television. Consequently, new media technologies have transformed the traditional sport media ecology by altering not only the delivery and consumption of professional sports but also its production by affording audiences greater ownership of content, creating a new dynamic between sports consumers, athletes, clubs, governing bodies and conventional media divisions.

McQuail and Deuze identified five main categories of new media:

1. Interpersonal communication

Messaging apps like WhatsApp allow fans to interact socially with like-minded individuals.

3. Information Search Media

The BBC Sport Website is an example of how traditional mediums have integrated into digital platforms on the World Wide Web for distributing media content.

5. Substitutes of Broadcast Media

While TV has been the predominant medium for consuming live sport due to it being the closest medium to actually attending the contest live, online streaming platforms are impacting this stable symbiotic relationship, with roughly half of fans in China, Indonesia and Taiwan using live streams to watch sports.

2. Interactive Play Media

Fantasy leagues and video games enable fans to engage in competitive activities while the rise of the Esports market in particular provided a substitute for sports content during the COVID-19 pandemic.

4. Collective Participatory Media

Digital plenitude and Social Media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, have restructured the sport content economy by lowering entry barriers to new entrants and disrupting traditional content control. Now, users are able to extend their behaviour through digital self-expression and extended fanship networks by creating their own content and participating in less mediated online conversations with others around the world about their favourite team, like ‘superfans’ pages, thus bypassing traditional media structures.

The way sport is marketed and how fans access and interact with each other and with their sport has changed – of this there is little doubt. Sport is fundamentally a social experience with new media technology allowing audiences to bypass the traditional structures and engage in more immediate, democratic, and authentic interactions with all parties within this current Sport Media Ecology. Ultimately, the core product of professional sport, the live event, remains the same but how this product is accessed has changed along with the mediated interactions that surround it.

What do you think is the most significant impact new media has had within sport and society so far? Make sure to post your thoughts for discussion in the comments below!

My next post will place particular emphasis on new media’s affordance as a substitute for broadcast media. Has the digital disruption caused by these technologies supplemented or replaced the traditional TV medium and how has the sports rights broadcasting model evolved as a result? Find out my thoughts in an exclusive audio podcast.


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