The Changing Ways We Watch Sports

Share this article

Ten years ago, it was predicted that high-definition television would dissuade fans from going to basketball games, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The National Basketball Association (NBA) sold out a record 791 games in the 2022-23 season, where arenas were filled to an all-time high 97% capacity.

While it’s a positive result for a sport that capitalizes on live attendance, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver noted there is still a limit to how many tickets they can sell. He told Gerry Cardinale, founder of RedBird Capital Partners, at the Goldman Sachs Alternatives Summit that evolving media and technology have helped expand the reach of the league where high-quality streaming, not just through television, can be accessed through all forms of devices.

“In the old days, you had to rush home to watch the game,” he said. “Now, you can be anywhere and you’re carrying your television in your pocket, and you can watch it anytime.”

Silver said while the main product for the league is still live games, the way we consume has changed.

Technology helps sports become more immersive

While high-definition television has been a game-changer for the live game experience, the internet has disrupted the way viewers watch sports. The shift to internet streaming is essentially taking the same broadcast feeds from traditional media and moving them to streaming platforms, giving it a similar passive or a “lean back” viewer experience.

“But the next generation is going to be the personalization, the customization, all kinds of functionality that’s not available through conventional television,” said Silver.

Viewers are already betting on a game online or taking part of a social media platform debating a referee’s call – they are essentially watching the games on two screens.

Silver believes the future of sports will combine new technology, making it possible to “bring that community together kind of in the same way we do in an arena.”

Players become individual brands

Getting to know the players on an intimate level has sprouted traditions like locker room interviews, where players are seen getting dressed and talking to reporters. Now with digital media, there’s even greater access to the players, turning them into “YouTube stars.”

“They have huge social media followings that digital media has allowed us to sort of build them out as the multidimensional people they always have been,” Silver said.

Technology and media transformed the way fans are connecting with their players where they want to know everything about the individual from their fashion taste, what they care about, even their political views whether they agree or disagree.

NBA has become more valuable

When Silver first started working for the league in 1992, as an assistant to then-commissioner David Stern, the average value of an NBA franchise was around $70 million. A decade after Silver became commissioner himself, Forbes places the average team valuation at $3.85 billion, 55 times higher.

“On a relative basis, we’re much more valuable than we used to be and that sports are almost the only programming source that people truly care about watching live,” he said.

He pointed out that there are 2 billion people in the social media community if you count the league together with its teams and players – that’s one in four people in the world connected with the NBA in some way. Some one billion people will watch some portion of the NBA game this season, he added.

“At the end of the day, streaming is internet TV and it creates all kinds of possibilities that didn’t exist before,” said Silver.  “And I think live premium sports are a huge beneficiary of that.”

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for individualized professional advice. Articles on this website were commissioned and approved by Marcus by Goldman Sachs®, but may not reflect the institutional opinions of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., Goldman Sachs Bank USA, Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC or any of their affiliates, subsidiaries or divisions.