Sport media ecology series 4: Has the disruption of digital media gone too far?

Has the disruption of digital media gone too far?

In today’s blog the disruption that the introduction of digital media has cased will be discussed. We will look at whether the disruption has gone too far when impacting the sporting industry.

When looking into the disruption that the digital revolution has caused, some refer to it as the obliteration of older media through the replacement of newer digital media (Thorburn and Jenkins, 2004). However, it was inevitable that they would converge whilst newer media are seen to imitate and remediate what past media did before therefore the traditional processes may simply just be seen through digital formats now (Thorburn and Jenkins, 2004).

A major disruption within the sport industry is the pirated streaming, which is the process of offering an illegal stream at a lower price than what is being offered to consume through TV broadcasted channels (David and Milward, 2012; Ludvigsen and Petersen-Wagner, 2022). An example of this, is the English Premier League can be offered via online streams which can only be accessed via VPN and/or small subscription fee, this is similar to the majority of popular sports. However, this can impact the major corporations like BT Sport and SkySport who have invested so much into their TV sport package deals to be undertaken by pirated streams. 

Therefore, in terms of disruption, digital media has totally changed the way in which sport is consumed on a global scale. From reading about it after the event to being able to watch games from anywhere at any time through a phone, whilst also being able to access so much more information via the internet. 

However, this digitalisation of sport has led to the relationship between sport and the media developing more through the monetisation and gamblification. According to Lopez-Gonzalez and Griffiths (2018) there are distinct industries that are all converging by sharing information and data whilst also using transmedia consumption; sport, social media and gambling/gaming. Lopez-Gonzalez and Griffiths (2018) highlight three distinct areas of this convergence:

  1. Digital integration: social gaming, using real money to win/buy virtual items. Immersive reality such as virtual horse racing.
  2. Sporting integration: links to fantasy leagues
  3. Gambling integration: in-venue

These three areas are all showing how much sport and the media rely on one another as without coverage (especially digital), there would be no/less fans, who therefore cannot bet on live games (Lopez-Gonzalez and Griffiths, 2018). And the vice versa, if there is no media, then the sport companies and broadcasting companies would die, along with gambling and gaming companies. Therefore, the disruption of digital media has led to the sporting industry becoming a money-making business, rather than focused on the sport and participation like the traditional ways.

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