Src: USA Today
A report consulting leading futurists presents a picture of what professional sports might be like in the next 25 years. Predictions are made in three increments (1-5 years, 5-10 years, 10-25 years), but the editors stress that the report only describes a possible future, not a most likely scenario. It is intended to be a conversation starter, and should not be read as a high-confidence forecast. The report covers eleven facets of the industry, including facilities, venues, players, fans, etc. The report was commissioned by the operator of a global food service and hospitality company and owner of a major professional team.
The full report is available for free, but here are highlights by chapter:
1-5 years: genetic screening
5-10 years: genetic enhancements
10-25 years: natural & enhanced athletes
“Safe and detectable drugs that boost key physiological factors to specific, pre-determined amounts will be legal and will level the playing field for all. Success will be determined more by character, teamwork, strategy, and the mental edge than by the genetic lottery. In this sense, sports will become a purer test than we have today.”
The carefully managed genetic enhancements might allow for:
increased red blood cell count for better oxygen delivery
stamina increased 60%
muscle mass doubled
pain pathways blocked
skeletal density increased
Enhanced athletes and natural athletes might compete in separate leagues, with the leagues meeting in championship games between natural and enhanced players.
All players will also be enhanced by courts/fields that increase performance.
1-5 years: demand for data flow (via smart phones, etc)
5-10 years: video advances
10-25 years: urban integration
Video walls in stadium architecture; on-field holographic replays, glasses-free 3D tech in luxury boxes; VR rides in the stadium for fans.
Smaller stadium footprints, enabled by self-driving self-parking cars and high-speed mass transit, allow stadiums to be built in city centers; modular/adaptable construction for variety of events; variety of fan areas.
More alcohol sales (enabled by driverless cars, mass transit); more security cameras, facial recognition.
1-5 years: the death of one-size-fits-all broadcasting (variety of consump options; Google likely buys rights for a major league)
5-10 years: divergence (news content comes from leagues, franchises, players, fans)
10-25 years: the convergence (fans re-integrate content from various sources and share)
Major networks lose control over content (to leagues, players, franchises, fans).
Influence of network commentators and journalists wanes due to social media access.
Major online platform (probably Google) buys multiyear broadcast rights for a league.
Fans access content from many sources all at once.
Fans integrate these streams into seamless, coherent, personalized viewing experiences.
Watch a game via VR headset from the perspective of your favorite player.
1-5 years: talent ecosystem emerges
5-10 years: better controllers
10-25 years: indistinguishable remote and in-person gameplay
Celebrity gamers challenge traditional sports stars for adulation.
Pro sports leagues embrace gaming.
Talent eco-systems supporting esports (coaches, high school teams, ranking, etc).
Hand-held controllers replaced by body movement and sensors.
Tactile feedback interfaces and AR/VR enable remote play.
1-5 years: increasingly responsive
5-10 years: fan-recorded content
10-25 years: increased fan input (extension of 1-5yr forecast above – more strategy decisions, like scouting)
Forced crowdsourcing of critical decisions, like whether to fire a player or coach after a scandal.
When every fan is wearing a high-quality video device, fans become a prime source for broadcast and replay material.
Team-designated ombudsmen will represent fans in major team decisions, and complex algorithms will predict fan reactions.
1-5 years: extreme sports league
5-10 years: robot experiments
10-25 years: sports zones
Extreme sports will adapt a more formalized competition format.
Robot trials will be run before humans perform to improve safety. Later, robotic exoskeletons and self-powered body suits further reduce injuries and death.
Designated competition areas in national wilderness areas.
1-5 years: move to digital
5-10 years: paper tickets go away (Apple establishes its own banking technology)
10-25 years: end of the line (no standing in lines for anything)
Leagues with their own digital currencies (probably NOT based on Bitcoin).
Seats chosen based on social media contacts, and social goals (families together, singles together, etc).
1-5years: women’s sports apparel expansion
5-10 years: job displacement
10-25 years: increased displacement of low-end workforce
Marketing focuses more on upper-mid-class women as mid-class wealth wanes.
As more fans are priced out of live games, “third venues” emerge. AR enables life-size replays up close in 3D theatrical venues
“The Future of Sports.” Josh McHugh, Po Bronson, Ethan Watters (editors). September 2015. Delaware North.
Singularity University (Paul Saffo, Salim Ismail, Aaron Frank), Kamran Rosen (reporting and research), Gary Bettman, Wendy Selig, Ted Leonsis, Future Cities Lab, Clay Coffey, Luke Bronson, Blaise Zerega, SF Elite Academy, Rick Abramson, Amy Latimer, Todd Merry, Chuck Moran, John Wentzell, Garrett Law, Peter White, Roger Noll, Mark Charles, Margaret Johnson
For background on the motivation for the report, see:
“Bruins owner spearheads report on what sports will look like in 25 years.” Erik Brady. January 26, 2016. USA Today.
Many of the ideas above are echoed in a May 2015 article from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. In particular we’re already seeing line-optimization, seat-optimization, on-demand on-device replays, big growth in digital tickets, women and children as a key demographic.
“Five Trends Shaping the Future of Sports.” Ian Chipman. May 2015. Stanford Graduate School of Business