This Saturday, the Champion’s League final will be free to air on YouTube for the first time. To mark the occasion, we’re revisiting our interview with Senior Director of YouTube's EMEA Steve Nuttall, to understand his thoughts on how technology will impact the future of sport. This interview was part of a wider research programme exploring the future of sport and the role that technology will play.
How do you think sport broadcasting has changed over the years?
The quantity of sports covered live has changed. In the past, there were relatively few television stations, and the only way you could get a live sport event was in someone’s home. Then came the satellite revolution, which saw a massive expansion in live sport broadcasting.
Now there is a whole host of other content transmitted as broadcasters use the Internet as a complement to TV. That means a lot of broadcasters are creating second screen apps - services that compliment traditional television viewing. We are also seeing sports organisations showing coverage that would not have otherwise ever been seen, such as the 17 live streams of the Olympic games at any point of time. There are 3,500 hours of live sport shown from the London Olympics, but in the UK, only a few hundred hours were shown live on BBC1 and BBC2. By the time you add the red button services, iPlayer and the live streaming services, you have a massive expansion. You can basically watch every single event live, on your TV, on your phone, or on your computer. Open distribution means so many more sports get coverage, and many shown live which have never been shown live before. This additional coverage means broadcasters can tell a much richer story.
Then you have the change in quality of broadcasting. The Internet has been interested in delivering 4K and 8K, and while people have been able to put 4K content on YouTube for several years now, broadcasters are just launching their first 4K channels. Another change is the use of stats and data analysis to enrich the story around sport. Broadcasters and event organisers are using this information to create a deeper experience, sometimes as an add on to what’s in the broadcast. Football clubs, for example, can create their own match day applications for fans to access whether they are at the stadium or not.
Is it feasible to broadcast live sporting events on YouTube just with revenue from advertisements?
Definitely. The content that you’ll be less likely to see on YouTube is content currently owned by paid broadcasters - the most premium, if you’d like. There is tons of live content on YouTube and other streaming services nowadays, so the old debate of how the Internet is not capable of delivering quality experience for live sport broadcasting is gone. What remains is the question of who puts it there, and what tools broadcasters use for distribution. Do they broadcast on platforms like YouTube and Facebook, or do they put clips and highlights in real time on YouTube? There are a number of ways to slice and dice these things. There is no standard, and it’s a rapidly evolving marketplace.
I think in the last 30 years, there has been a massive expansion of quantity and quality of live sport available to UK consumers, and I see no reason for that to slow down. It is, however, dependent on how good [fast] the Internet is. Phones are also getting better, with bigger screens and batteries, and our ever-increasing host of connected devices also opens up new opportunity for live sport.
Will the 360-degree view be available for sports broadcasts and live footage in the future?
It’s very early days, but there’s certainly no reason you wouldn’t be able to give multiple angles. A 360-degree view at a boxing match would work well, for example, but I don’t think it would work for all sports. You have to be careful about when it will truly enhance the viewer experience - in the same way that 3D sports hasn’t exactly set the world on fire. If there are good examples, or examples that provide benefits beyond the current broadcast, then good. All these new technologies are fantastic, but you still have to tell a good story, and make sure the technology enhances the telling of the story without getting in the way or becoming the story itself.
Will YouTube be watched mostly on desktop’s in the future? Or will viewing shift to other smart electronics like connected TVs and portable devices?
I think people will watch on the largest screen available. The fact is the screen in your pocket is the most convenient, and that’s likely to dominate the viewing experience. And when you come near a TV, just like Chromecast does now, there will be an automatic way of using that screen to see what you’re watching on your mobile screen.
Other than live footage, what kind of content can YouTube deliver for fans outside the stadium?
In the not so distant past, you had no way apart from the program to communicate with supporters. Now you can have a YouTube channel and a website, and with them the ability to tell whatever stories you want to tell, whenever you want to tell them. Around match time, it’s obviously all about the game, but in between the matches, it’s about transfer speculations, training, and countless other conversations, so clubs are using YouTube and Facebook to tell those stories and have a really engaged conversation with their fans. And not only with fans that regularly come to the games, but those who only occasionally attend, or are abroad and have never attended a match.
Barcelona and Real Madrid have been very high in the rankings of successful clubs. They’ve also been very early adopters of social media and all things Internet. So I think both of them are early YouTube partners. With UK clubs, we normally think about Arsenal and Man City; they use multiple channels and do other clever things.
In terms of the amount of data available in sport, will one company (such as Google) own it in the future?
In the old days, there were natural pinch points to the 3 or 4 terrestrial television stories. Today, I think the gatekeepers have gone away. Now there are many devices and networks to tell a story, so the old idea that anyone can have everything doesn’t add up. I think the challenge will be making sense of all the data that’s out there. There are plenty of ways for people to make sense of the opportunity. There’s no chance there will be everyone going to one person or company to get all the information.
If you think of our grandparents’ generation, you see a few photos of them when they went to a photographic studio. In our parents’ generation, there were a few more photos, and in our generation even more. I think in our children’s generation, there are terabytes of photos and videos. In the future, there will be a multiplicity of video. The challenge is: with all the information out there, how do you find something truly interesting? How do you cut through all the noise?
All interviews were conducted by Ken Saito, MBA in Football Industries at the University of Liverpool. This interview is part of a wider body of research: The Future of Sport.
You can read more about the rise of technology in sport and the unprecedented opportunities this brings to brands in our viewpoint paper.
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