IBM has published a report revealing a growing generational shift towards technology-driven experiences, which will impact the future of sports consumption.

The international study confirms that fans are prioritising personalised and time-saving digital sports content, with the majority recognising the positive impact technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) will have on these experiences.

Furthermore, younger sports fans are more likely to favour AI-enhanced features, with 58% of 18-29 year-olds believing AI will positively impact sports.

IBM found that fans aged 18-29 are using mobile phones or tablets as their primary devices to watch sporting events more often than older fans and that subscription streaming of live sporting events is most popular among this age group.

The generational shift is evident as the report finds that older fans are sticking to traditional methods of sports consumption, with linear broadcasting remaining most popular among fans aged 45 and older.

Notably, only 40% of fans over 55 believe AI will positively impact sports compared to the aforementioned 58% of fans aged 18-29 years-old.

Noah Syken, Vice President, Sports and Entertainment Partnerships at IBM, said: “Fans worldwide are continuing to embrace platforms and solutions that allow them to feel more connected and informed on their favourite sporting events and athletes, and IBM’s new study confirms this now includes embracing technologies like AI to deliver these experiences. 

“IBM’s longstanding portfolio of sports and entertainment partnerships aims to deliver on these expectations from fans by putting in the hands of our partners the most advanced IBM technologies from our AI and data platform watson.”

The study, conducted by Morning Consult, gathered insights from over 18,000 sports fans across the US, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, India, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Benefits of emerging technologies

Emerging technologies are rapidly transforming the way fans engage with sports, offering more interactive and personalised experiences. Innovations like AI, augmented reality and advanced streaming services are enhancing fan interaction, making sports consumption more immersive and convenient.

The report found that fans aged 18-29 are more likely to prioritise AI improvements, with 40% valuing real-time updates and 36% favouring personalised content. 

Although older fans (55+) also rank real-time updates (26%) and personalised content (19%) as top priorities, they are generally less likely to view AI improvements as a high priority.

These statistics may indicate a lack of understanding of the benefits AI brings to sports viewing, highlighting the shift towards personalised and fast-paced sports action that the younger generation craves.

Methods of consumption

Watching sports via linear broadcasts or streaming TV has long been the favourite method for most people. The study confirmed this preference, with 64% of respondents citing it as their top choice.

However, as technology has evolved, fans have increasingly shifted toward watching sports on mobile devices. Notably, 20% of consumers report mobile devices as their top choice for viewing sporting events, and 38% say it is their second most likely option.

These findings align with the trend of multi-device usage during sports viewing. Among surveyed sports fans, 28% use at least two devices while watching events, and 24% do so while listening to sports. Fans aged 18-44 are more likely to use three or more devices simultaneously.

Respondents shared that the primary reason for using multiple devices when consuming sports is multi-tasking, followed by seeking additional game information while watching or listening.

Earlier this year, Insider Sport sat down with Andrew Grimshaw, Commercial Director of Checkd Dev and Adam Patton, Managing Director of Checkd Dev, who noted this trend as a driver for their Boxing News app.

The Boxing New app lets users predict fight outcomes, read fight news and place bets based on their predictions, all in one place. Checkd Dev predicted this “one-stop-shop” concept will become widespread, as people increasingly seek more information than a single screen can provide.

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