LAS VEGAS — No matter the industry, whether sports, virtual reality, cars or media, people want to be closer to their favorite teams, brands and products.
That’s why leaders across many industries are spending big on new ways to interact with customers. Every industry has its own way to talk to customers, and companies that use technology to help people get closer to their products will be a step ahead of the competition, a panel of experts at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas said Thursday.
Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said his conference currently spends more money on digital and social engagement with fans than it does on actual broadcasting. He used the recent thrilling Rose Bowl between USC and Penn State as an example of where he thinks sports coverage is going. Scott sees a world where fans can watch lead-up shows all week, view the coach’s halftime speech to the team, follow sideline action and revel in the celebration of a win afterwards.
Pac-12 Network has six local channels, each focusing on a state or city. He sees this as the model going forward because people are busy these days, with a lot of potential distractions, but they are hungrier than ever to find out everything they can about their favorite teams.
“We’re now thinking about the whole experience of a sporting event well beyond the two or three hours of the game itself, and we’re using technology to congregate these great passionate audiences together over much longer periods of time before, during and after the event,” Scott said.
Bringing fans closer to the action is one of NextVR‘s primary goals. The Laguna Beach, Calif.-based startup signed a deal earlier this year to stream 25 NBA games, giving fans the opportunity to watch the game as if they had a courtside seat.
We tried out NextVR’s courtside experience earlier this year. It created plenty of wow moments, but there is still some work to do to improve the production value.
NextVR Executive Chairman Brad Allen said that his service is not meant to be a replacement for the broadcast experience, but a complement for those who want to be fully immersed. Allen said few people want to sit down and watch a game for three hours, especially with a hefty VR headset on their heads, but there is a huge desire to see their favorite players up close.
“It is a new experience, and it is about bringing the fans closer to the action, closer to their favorite teams or players and these new personalities that are emerging in sports,” Allen said.
Bleacher Report, which Turner Broadcasting bought for about $175 million in 2012, is focused on individual customization. Dave Finocchio, co-founder and CEO of Bleacher Report, said social media has made sports more accessible than ever. Fans from around the world are getting into global sports like basketball and soccer. But the way they follow sports is different. They might spend the majority of their time watching highlight videos of Russell Westbrook rather than tuning in for an entire game.
That’s part of why Bleacher Report has focused so heavily on Instagram, with a channel completely dedicated to highlights. In addition, its Team Stream feature lets viewers customize their experience by following their favorite teams and players. Finocchio said people have become less likely to sit through the hour-long sports show to get a few minutes of information on their favorite team or player, and Bleacher Report is taking advantage of that.
“People grew tired of wasting precious minutes of their day watching stuff that they didn’t care about, and so we’ve just continued to feed off of that,” Finocchio said.
Even outside of sports, brands know that customers want more information. Ford’s Vice President of U.S. Marketing Sales and Service Mark LaNeve said the mobile device has become the new auto showroom. When someone wants to buy a car, they will do the bulk of their research on their phone or computer before coming into the dealership.
Any car company that doesn’t have a good mobile experience will lose customers before they even walk in the door of a dealership. Because the competition has become so fierce in the industry, the customer has more influence over car companies, so they have to add more aspects to their digital offering, such as virtual test drives, in order to beat out their rivals.
“Increasingly, we have to project the brand globally and have that great shopping experience that’s all done digitally now and increasingly virtually as we get into virtual test drivers, and those sorts of things,” LaNeve said. “That’s a big challenge for us, but that’s the reality of the way we have to meet the customer on their terms, that’s the way they want to shop now.”