The below post has been contributed by Arvin Patel, the executive vice president and chief intellectual property officer for TiVo.
The NFL season got off to a rocky start for the second year in a row as ratings for the first game of the 2018 season between the Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons fell more than 8 percent year-over-year from a 14.6 overnight rating to a 13.4 mark, according to Nielsen. A lot of ink has been spilled on why the NFL continues to experience a steady drop in viewership. From the quality of the games being played to concussions to player protests during the national anthem, there’s been no shortage of reasons as to why one of the country’s most popular sports is facing arguably it’s biggest existential crises in years. No doubt it’s an issue that is keeping the folks at 345 Park Avenue in New York City up at night.
It’s also leaving major broadcasters like ESPN, CBS, NBC and FOX question their financial commitments to the league and whether paying millions of dollars to televise NFL games makes economic sense. However, despite the league’s ratings drop, everyone still wants a piece of the NFL, which is why these same broadcasters continue to pay top dollar to win the rights to broadcast NFL games. It’s also why new and emerging players like Twitter have paid boatloads of money to win the streaming rights to NFL games.
So, what can the NFL and media companies do to protect the shield as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell likes to say? For starters, they can focus on the consumer experience. With more choices for consumers, media companies and the NFL are in a fight to cut through the clutter and grab the attention of fans. Burnishing existing technologies and developing new and innovative solutions will help meet these new challenges. And by layering in additional tech capabilities brick-by-brick, media companies will be able to fill these gaps that make the consumer experience even better.
As content consumption behaviors continue to evolve in today’s highly fragmented media landscape, media companies and the NFL need to harness technology to improve the quality of viewing and content experiences. By doing so, they will make it easier for consumers to use programming, while providing more access to content and developing new technologies like voice control.
And as someone who has been at the leading edge in the media business and fan of the NFL, I’ve seen a lot of hits and misses when it comes to technology, but done right, it can offer fans better comprehensive experiences that provides them with instant gratification and quality content.
Here are some of the areas where technology can help media companies and the NFL attract more viewers:
- HEVC Video Compression – We have become accustomed to having extraordinarily high-quality video content at our fingertips on a wide variety of devices wherever we go. This would not be possible without the extraordinary video compression technology called HEVC. Video content keeps getting more data intensive with higher definition (now up to 8K), wide color gamut, high dynamic range, and more frames per second. Moving the massive quantities of video data that we consume across high-speed internet, cellular and WiFi networks would be impossible without compression technology that makes the files as much as 200X smaller than their native size. The latest generation of compression technology, called HEVC, doubles the compression rate over the prior generation. Without it, we’d have to chose lower quality video or else our networks would literally grind to a halt.
- Voice Control – To control our viewing experience, voice control is now becoming widely available and increasingly proficient. We will soon throw away remote controls and use our voices to find content and control our viewing experience. No more hunt-and-peck to find the games we want, just say the name of the team, matchup, or the name of a player and you’ll be presented with a list of viewing options which you will also select with your voice. To pause, rewind, or fast forward a game, you’ll no longer search for the remote between your couch cushions in a dark room. Just say the command and your viewing experience will be completely under your control.
- High Dynamic Range Video – If you watch an old game, or a new game on an old TV set, you’ll notice how washed out everything looks when compared with the best new content on a high- quality modern TV. TV’s that display content with High Dynamic Range are demonstrating picture quality improvements that we haven’t seen since the leap from Standard Definition to High Definition. HDR can be difficult to describe, but you’ll certainly know the difference when you see it. Video content is brighter and has much more vivid colors. The HDR standards display a wider range of luminosity from the blackest blacks to the brightest whites, and much wider color gamut with more than a million unique color gradients. High quality digital TVs are quickly approaching the human perceptual limit across all dimensions, and HDR technology makes difference in that is impossible not to notice.
- Object Based Audio – If you’ve been to a recently upgraded movie theater lately, then you’ve heard the latest innovation in audio technology called Object Based Audio. The old days of stereo and multi-speaker surround sound are being replaced with a new audio technology that requires a different way of capturing, mixing and presenting movie audio. With Object Based Audio, each sound is captured as a separate object that can be precisely located as it moves through three-dimensional space. In the theater, up to 64 speakers are used to recreate the sound in its precise location relative to the audience. This amazing audio technology is now headed for the home theater, and even the headphone market and will bring hyper-realistic audio to a wide range of video experiences.
While it might feel like we’ve hit the two-minute warning for the NFL and media companies, the game is just beginning. Technology can help level the playing field in today’s highly competitive and uncertain marketplace, where the battle for consumer attention will be fought both on and off the field. Will it have a Cinderella like ending? I’d bet on it.