Deloitte's sports professionals predict that innovation and disruption will dominate 2017, whether it is nontraditional media pursuing sports rights or teams optimising fan experience beyond the stadium. Deloitte's most recent report examines the issues and opportunities likely to be top of mind for sports executives this year, both on and off the field.

"The sports media landscape is evolving rapidly, especially in terms of who creates content and who has the right to distribute it. In last year’s trends study, we looked at the impact over-the-top (OTT) platforms would have on the sports industry. 2016 saw various networks and properties announce or launch their own OTT platforms, with one of the most significant being The Walt Disney Company’s investment in BAMTech to build an ESPN streaming service. Digital and mobile channels will remain a critical component in the media ecosystem in the coming year.

Content is king in the evolving sports
media landscape, but identifying the
most effective distribution channel is
equally important.
— Brian Finkel, sports research, Deloitte & Touche LLP

One trend in particular we expect to see grow in 2017 is the number of nontraditional media companies aggressively pursuing sports rights. Twitter’s foray into streaming NFL games and various Pac-12 sporting events could result in other OTT platforms seeking similar live rights packages. Examples of companies that could be in the bidding for sports content are Amazon for Amazon Prime and Apple for Apple TV digital media extender. These changes in the media industry aren’t limited to content distributors; they also extend to content owners. Consider WME | IMG, which historically has owned golf, tennis, and fashion events; represented entertainers; and exploited others' multimedia rights. Over the last two years, the company has emphasized owning content through the acquisitions of Ultimate Fighting Championship, Professional Bull Riders, and Miss Universe. Similarly, mass media conglomerate Liberty Media significantly increased its live event ownership in purchasing the international racing tour Formula One.

In all of these cases, as consumers shift from cable to digital media, ownership of, or distribution rights to, unique content will likely be a key differentiator between companies as they seek growth opportunities."

Data and analytics: Moneyball is only half the story

"Data and analytics discussions in sports typically concentrate on scouting and player development, but these conversations miss half of a team’s or league’s operations. One of the most significant trends in sports is the transformation on the business side as a result of big data. Having the best players is critically important, but so is having key insights to create better fan experiences, drive more revenue, and create more value. Business functions, such as finance, marketing, and sales, are seeking ways to better understand the sources of data they have access to and to improve their strategy and operations as a result.

Teams and leagues have generally sought to increase the overall technical know-how of their organization so that all areas of the business are more conversant in the power of data. But creating insights is only half the challenge. Organizations need to trust and activate those insights as well. Failing to apply what’s gleaned from data often is typically the biggest barrier to driving value from analytics.

Sales departments have been augmenting traditional approaches with more analytical capabilities by having better leads on who is more likely to buy, what they are more likely to buy, and when they are likely to purchase. Marketing departments are having customized, targeted campaigns. Finance is utilizing software to spend more time analyzing results rather than preparing financial reports. Media departments are capturing enhanced analytics on the consumers who interact with their digital and social platforms to improve engagement on the fly. The end goal is to improve interactions with consumers, enhance sponsorship opportunities, and support increased efficiency and effectiveness of such internal functions as finance and marketing."

The full report "Deloitte's sports industry starting lineup: Trends expected to disrupt and dominate 2017", can be viewed here.