How Rogers thinks 5G will change sports media

A partnership with University of Waterloo offers visions of second screen applications, personal camera angles and loads of real time data.

The promise of 5G technology rolling out across Canada could have a drastic impact on media viewing. Rogers is exploring how sports viewing in particular may change as consumers get access to ultra-fast internet speeds and exponentially more data.

Rogers, its Sportsnet brand and the University of Waterloo ran a virtual hackathon in November, giving university students the opportunity to design applications that improve sport viewing using 5G technology. Rogers has also announced a 5G program dedicated to researching fan engagement as part of a three-year multi-million dollar partnership with the University of Waterloo.

Neel Dayal, director of innovation and partnerships at Rogers, says those programs are shaping how his company and its partners are thinking about the future of watching sports.

In a nutshell, 5G networks use new technology that would give consumers super-fast internet speeds at home and on their mobile devices. The amount of data 5G devices promise to stream in is exponentially faster than what’s on offer today, allowing for more and higher-quality video streams with virtually no lag.

Dayal foresees a near future where broadcasters place sensors in arenas that track individual hockey player actions to give viewers real-time reports on everyone’s performance. Fans might be able to choose what camera angle they view the game from thanks to multiple feeds from the ice, and call up their own instant replays. And stat-obsessed fans will have real-time feeds on every conceivable measure of performance at their fingertips.

“You can build a lot of experiences off of these different data sets that are available,” Dayal says. “We see that there’s more and more demand for advance analytics with our sports audience,” he says.”Allowing the number of devices and sensors to proliferate, having more analytics and delivering that in real time, really kind of augments the existing live experience.”

Dayal says 5G technology in sports will help address an ongoing challenge in the age of ubiquitous information consumers find themselves in – keeping consumers engaged as attention spans shrink.

“You can create these unique, engaging experiences where they’re either interacting with their peers in a social manner, or they’re interacting with a broader social network via things like fantasy sports or gambling. That just has a stickiness factor associated with it that sort of helps you tick a lot of the boxes in terms of immediate metrics that are important – engagement, growth and acquisition,” he says.

Dayal says all these potential new feeds, interactive features and streams could be leveraged as media properties.”What’s really unique about 5G is the ability to take massive amounts of data and compute a decision in real time. And really, that’s at the core of a media business – to be able to personalize and target,” he says. “To be able to do that more accurately, I think, becomes very attractive to media and media entities.

“If someone is engaging with a certain team, at a certain time, during the game, that becomes interesting for the advertiser to know – because they may be targeting a particular segment or audience within their ad campaigns,” he says.

Dayal says Rogers is still working through a lot of the concepts the students developed as part of the hackathon, so he couldn’t provide specific examples on what they produced. However, he did say many of them are related to using data sets to enhance the existing broadcast experience. Some also offered ways to improve watching games in-person once pandemic restrictions lift. Who knows? Maybe 5G services will someday show you which stadium concession stands have the shortest lines.