As lots of baseball fans across the country get ready for hopefully an exciting World Series (well, except those members of Red Sox Nation like me, pretending the last six months never happened and looking towards 2013 Spring Training), more and more are doing so with their portable devices – while simultaneously watching on TV. While some are simply multi-tasking with GMail, Angry Birds or NSFW (or home) internet surfing, a growing number are trying out the increasing number of sports-based TV companion apps and websites.
In fact, sports seems to be one of the TV genres generating the most activity from entrepreneurs to large companies. Scores of companies are launching second screen experiences to complement the TV viewing experience. The tremendous growth in smartphones and tablets have made such digital companions more comfortable and conducive to use.
The sports leagues themselves and their partner networks were some of the earliest in the space. MLB Advanced Media has continually led the field with its GameDay app, which works well as a stand-alone app for those out-of-market for example, and as a companion app for those who can’t get enough stats. The NBA, NFL, NHL and Nascar also all have online and mobile experiences to add to the viewing experience.
Where there’s been a lot of startup activity (and associated venture $) has been in mobile and tablet apps to complement sports viewing. The apps are all taking different approaches: sharing, stats, conversation, gamification, chat – and all permutations thereof! Some of the more interesting ones include PrePlay Sports, Tok Baseball, RumbleTV, SportsYapper, SportsCaster, LiveFanChat, and SportsStream.
But why does sports seem to be leading the charge onto the second screen and the emerging world of social TV? Sports viewing by its nature is social. Watching a game with friends is typically so much more enjoyable than watching by yourself. Trash talking the opponents – or your friend’s team – is simply what we like to do these days. And sports performance is so stats-oriented that TV productions simply can’t provide the level of detail that everyone would like. Fantasy sports adds a whole other layer. And competing with friends, whether remotely or next to you adds to the competition on the field.
Sports-based second screen apps facilitate all that. They make it easy to stay connected with your friends across town or cross-country. You want more stats? Many apps supply more stats than a sabermetrician would know what to do with. And all those water cooler conversations about ‘the game last night’ at the office the next day? Well, they’re all still happening – but around the virtual water cooler. Chatting with friends and other fans and even reporters and other experts (any @MatthewBerryTMR followers?) now happens live as the action unfolds. Tomorrow? Too late; Twitter and other online forums are driving the conversation in real-time.
With the proliferation of devices in the home (iPad Mini anyone?) and the never-ending thirst to eat, drink and sleep sports, this will only continue. There will be increasing usage of companion apps for most genres of TV, especially reality, comedy, big events and other highly social programming. But it’s highly likely that for the foreseeable future, sports will be scoring the most points in the social TV arena.