SBJ: What If … new games, new rules, new approaches — the ideas to improve sports business

January 9, 2023
SBJ: What If … new games, new rules, new approaches — the ideas to improve sports business

What If … new games, new rules, new approaches — The ideas to improve sports business.

We asked executives to share their ideas to improve sports and sports business. Their responses ran the gamut — from scheduling to game management to diversity:

"… technologies like digital glass and transparent OLED enhanced the venue experience throughout the day.
Taking a cue from the way Disney parks have evolved over the years — ensuring a great “show” from the moment someone arrives to the moment they leave, as opposed to just when they are on a ride or watching a game — is a vital way teams and venues can [reclaim live events as one of the most exciting and engaging ways to spend a day]. There are exciting ways to achieve this with new and innovative technologies such as digital glass and transparent OLED. With an effect that seems straight out of a futuristic movie, both allow otherwise normal-looking sheets of glass to transform and come alive magically with video imagery appearing within. Imagine, therefore, an entire glass exterior of a stadium with hype reel imagery five stories tall playing and wrapping all the way around. You’d see it for miles away and it would create a palpable excitement as you neared on game day in the same way just the glow of the lights once did. Or beyond just the video and ribbon boards, imagine every suite window, glass partition or surface inside the venue being able to light up with everything from replays, to creative content, to analytics, stat overlays, and more. The show would be everywhere in a way that would enhance the energy and feed and delight our evolving digital brains."                  — George Linardos, CEO, ANC
ANC Studios Conceptual Rendering - Stadiums of the Future

… avid fans could own part of their favorite team

Jonathan Beane, senior vice president, chief diversity and inclusion officer, NFL

Sports clubs for all major sports to follow a model that allows avid club fans to own a part of the team. Similar to the Green Bay Packers model, this would require primary owners to put aside a certain percent of the team to be owned by the regular fan.


… fans could see and hear what players on the field see and hear

I would love to see the game-day experience expanded for fans in a deeper way. Fully integrate the “in-game experience” of the players for the fans through technology. Cameras on helmets with audio that would allow you to see and hear the opposing team players during plays. Feel and see intensity as a game is happening.

… baseball games started no earlier than 4 p.m.

Brandon Steiner, founder, CollectibleXChange

I would stop the 1 p.m. afternoon weekday baseball games. … it makes no sense. I would not start earlier than 4 p.m. so that kids do not miss school and adults do not miss a whole day of work. Also, a later afternoon start offers a great opportunity for “happy hour” while watching on television. The “getaway” day was meant for when teams would fly commercial, not charter.

… there was enhanced education around sports betting

Andrew Bimson, president and COO, Sportradar North America

It is a reality that sports fans having their first opportunity to legally bet are often left overwhelmed by sportsbook choices, promos, etc. Sports betting also brings with it a terminology that is not familiar to most uninitiated sports fans.  … A more concerted effort to inform [fans] about the sports betting world will break down a clear barrier to entry and aid in the conversion of fans to become bettors. Because a more informed fan will result in a more comfortable bettor and one who is also more aware of the factors to consider in order to act responsibly.

… organizations invested in infrastructure around women’s sports

Kim Stone, president, UBS Arena; executive vice president, OVG East Coast

Invest in the infrastructure for women’s professional sports so their telecasts, facilities, broadcasts, etc., showcase them in a way that is equal to their male counterparts and provides a platform that allows them to build themselves and their sports into global brands.

The KC Current’s Berkley Riverfront Park will be the first soccer-specific stadium built for an NWSL team. KANSAS CITY CURRENT

… venues used data analytics to predict crowd situations

Holistic integration of technological capabilities, physical security and data analytics to accurately predict escalating crowd conditions that pose a significant risk and notify venue staff in a timely manner to quickly deploy proper resources to deescalate the situation. This isn’t profiling, which is controversial. It’s combining the art of physical security with the science of data analytics and technology to make predictions that create a better overall guest experience and safer environment. Let’s do for safety what we’ve done for ticketing: Use data and technology to make us smarter operators.

… there was better understanding of the women’s game

Sharon Otterman, CMO, Caesars Digital

Better storytelling around women’s sports. If we could tell their stories, we would get more of a rooting interest. It’s not a men’s game they are playing. Take basketball for an example: Women’s basketball is a below-the-rim game. Once you know that, once you know the storylines — you might want to watch and see it in a different way.

… the audience customizes their viewing experience

Chris Weil, co-CEO and founder, Horizon Sports & Experiences

Sports are going to transform from a one-size-fits-all broadcast into a personal-cast. Fans will be their own producers, where they can customize everything including camera angles, screens, announcers and data. Content creators, including brands, need to be more creative. One such solution is mixed-reality advertising. Think about the NHL Chipotle ad. Brands need to think about how they enhance the viewing experience to make it more engaging and memorable for the fans, not just interrupt the viewing experience.

Part of this personalization is that sports will become the first three-screen experience. … The third screen is the gaming element — different and additive to your traditional broadcast and your social feeds. In sports, it’s likely the third screen will be the betting screen. Fans will be able to see different data points on players — in soccer, what is the player’s heart rate during a penalty kick; in football — alignments stack up against each other, players’ height, weight, speed, time on field, etc., and fans can make bets or adjustments to their fantasy team based on these new data points and enhanced viewing experience.

… the NHL scheduled more Original Six matchups

Marc de Grandpré, president, New York Red Bulls

I would like to see the NHL bring back more Original Six matchups with the schedule emphasizing the focus on regional rivalries. Growing up attending games at the Montreal Forum, I loved seeing the Bruins visit Montreal, and the excitement those matchups produced as rivalries drive engagement and fandom.

… teams better connected with youth sports in their community

Teams need to better engage through youth sports participation to further connect and engage the next generation of fans. The cycle starts at the youth level, driving a passion for the sport and connecting that passion with local teams to drive engagement in and out of the arena/stadium. … Providing more access to players and various digital engagement will be critical with young fans as they start making decisions on their fandom, which we all know that by 14 kids have most likely picked their teams.

… the NBA eliminated back-to-back games

Bobby Marks, NBA analyst, ESPN

Shorten the schedule and eliminate back-to-backs. When the NBA schedule was released in August, a friend of mine reached out and asked if he should buy tickets to see Giannis Antetokounmpo when the Bucks visited Portland in February. My instant reaction was to look at the Bucks’ schedule and see if they were playing back-to-back games. That should not be the norm for fans willing to spend their own money to see the former MVP. Granted, injuries happen during the season and there is no guarantee Antetokounmpo will be on the court in early February. But what would happen if the season was shortened to 66 games, thus eliminating the ugly word in the box score “rest management”? Yes, less games would result in less money for players and teams. But the net loss could be offset in additional revenue generated from an in-season tournament.

… the NBA reduced the number of timeouts and free throws

Jeff Van Gundy, NBA analyst, ESPN

The elimination of halftime and a severe reduction in timeouts in all sports. In basketball, run ads during free throws or eliminate free throws until the last four minutes of the game. When fouled before the last four minutes, you get the points automatically for however many free throws you would have shot. More action. Less downtime.

… the NBA changed load management rules

Jalen Rose, NBA analyst, ESPN

I love this game, but I hate load management. But, since I see it’s here to stay, the rule I would institute is that you can only rest players during home games for obvious reasons.

… mobile technology delivered an immersive game-day experience

Why should attending a football game live mean being at an information deficit compared to watching it on TV where the commentators break down the action for you? A simple feed of commentary should be accessible by any earbud to know, same as someone at home for instance, if that on-field challenge is likely to stand. Kill all the down time by using your phone to banter in-venue, weigh in real-time on calls, see replays instantly, and dive endlessly into content and advanced data. Go further and make being there as immersive as playing a game of Madden: hold your phone viewer up to the field and see an augmented reality overlay of the X’s and O’s, predictive analytics, make your own bet on the play, or tap on a player to drill down on their profile, stats, and highlights. … The whitespace exists in the live event experience for this mobile-first generations. Why wouldn’t the teams and venues be the ones to fill it?

...What fans want

John Brody, CRO at Learfield

We are all fans after all. We talk about the “voice of the fan” in everything we build, but do we live it? Please indulge me as I share some of my thoughts for the fan in all of us.

1. Local TV territories and convoluted blackout rules — time for those to go. Let us watch the games we want to watch — stream away. It’s how we live.

2. Signage is valuable and will stay that way. Let’s all be more innovative about it; fans understand brands help fuel the engine. Employ technology and work to embed partners inside content wherever possible.

3. Four teams to 12 teams, much better. I can move on.

4. Content, content, content. Fans want to see more than just the game. How athletes live, train and chill. Give them the access to do that.

5. HBCUs need their stage. We must figure this out. It has taken way too long.

6. Same as No. 5, for women’s athletics too. Title IX is 50 and the WNBA is 25, enough said.

7. Heating and cooling of benches for players … so simple, so smart, so overdue.

8. Wagering is cool and endemic for fans. We need to make it consistent, accessible, and easier.

9. I love cams, it feels so inside the game — PylonCam, UmpireCam — more cams everywhere.

10. Keep going to live games, lots of them. It’s still magic, and when it’s not … go knit a sweater.

See more responses...

Read the full story in Sports Business Journal.

related articles