The Tiger Channel

No, this isn’t in reference to a National Geographic special, but rather a reaction to the announcement that ESPN will be devoting a channel entirely to Tiger Woods at the British Open. Not to worry though, according to the release, “If Woods does not advance to the weekend, other players will be spotlighted.”. I’m sure Adam Scott and the 5 other golfers currently ahead of Tiger in the world rankings will be giddy to hear that. My question isn’t why ESPN would do this-with their resources it takes nothing to orchestrate the dedicated feed, and it is sure to draw some interest. And after all, there is nothing ESPN loves doing more beating the big name athlete into the subconscious of their viewers (See Lebron James and Johnny Football). My question is: Where does it stop?

With the rise of channels devoted specifically to fantasy sports, and the increasing reliance on social media for game-viewing enjoyment, it is to the point where simply sitting down to watch a game is no longer enough. There is a subset of viewers that tune into a sporting event simply to partake in the madness that inherently occurs via social media, whether the team wins or loses. Fantasy sports has continued to test the resolve of fans’ loyalties in a way that only gambling may supersede. Sports viewing, in more ways than one, has become bigger than the teams themselves.

This doesn’t just apply to in-home sports viewing either. Teams across the county are adding features to keep fans coming to the stadium or arena. Pre-game festivities have always been a major part of the game day experience. Just go to any college campus on a Saturday this fall and see the remarkable effort put into tailgating festivities for each game. The extra-curricular activities no longer will be stopping at the stadium gate. The San Jose Mercury News talks here about an agreement between the 49ers and Yahoo to create a fantasy lounge to keep up with other games and stats. Also included in the agreement is a plan for fans to be able to upload in-game pictures, with the possibility of seeing their work show up on the big screen. This satisfies the hardcore sports fan, who has everything riding on AJ Green’s performance in a coinciding game, and also satisfies the casual fan who enjoys nothing more than showing off their picture taking skills to 60,000 plus spectators. Engagement is the key for any sports team, by any means necessary.

So, where do we stop? Will we eventually get to the point where players are fitted with cameras, allowing viewers to choose there favorite player’s perspective to follow? Maybe we can fit the ball itself with a camera and watch as it swishes through the basket, or gets swatted away at the last minute by a defender.

It is easy to forget that sports teams are ultimately a business, with huge financial implications reliant on the intake of their product. The true fan will remain a fan of the sport regardless of the viewing enhancements, but for those who prefer the entire experience, it looks as though the evolution of sports viewing is determined to accommodate, and this is just the beginning.

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