May 8, 2020
Without a doubt, the sports industry has already been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The shutdown has and will continue to have significant implications for not only sport properties and teams, but key stakeholders like broadcasters and corporate partners. Furthermore, we anticipate lasting changes to the fan experience both in and out of traditional venues.
From our lens, we are monitoring how this turbulent time may be especially challenging for sport technology startups who will need to pivot in order to remain competitive in this new landscape.
What we do know is that a weakened sport structure will create an environment ripe for disruption. Sport related startups and companies that can best adapt to the changing macroeconomic landscape will be well positioned when the market regains momentum, and when corresponding venture capital support and investment returns to this segment.
Within the broader sport tech ecosystem, it would appear that there are some segments that will be impacted more severely than others. Undoubtedly, fan engagement and venue management tech will be critical, and other verticals, such as those closely tied to gameplay, such as fantasy & gaming are being forced to pivot their offerings without access to the content that sustains their business model. Startups focused on sport and social innovation, as well as the grassroots sport participation will likely encounter new and pressing industry needs. We do, however, see opportunities around the athlete tech space broadening to focus on health and wellness solutions as the potential for negative mental health impact on athletes rises. Other areas, such as tech related to the esports industry are experiencing record engagement levels, as evidenced by Twitch’s March viewership setting all-time highs in peak daily active users and Steam experiencing record engagement on their gaming platform.
It is an interesting time for many industries, and sport tech and innovation can play an important role in helping address a ‘new normal’ in sport. As teams begin to stare down suddenly empty content calendars, they will look for innovative ways to engage their fanbase. Further, with estimates that media consumption may increase by up to 60%, during this time, sports properties have had a large, captive audience looking to be entertained, and have been piloting a number of new engagement strategies. Teams will be on the hunt for solutions that engage their customers and sustain their fandom during the pandemic. Although the focus may be on bridging the gap until play resumes, astute teams will continue to invest in these capabilities long after the next tip off, thinking big and bold will be important moving forward.
Our FSL team looks forward to being able to help with these developments.