by Matthias Neuner

August 10, 2016

Wearable Sports Data: The future of TV coverage?

The NFL, the national football league of America is probably the best example to show the possible influence of sports data monitored by wearable devices and used for TV coverage. Last year the NFL announced to equip all 1696 players of the 32 Teams with a set of RFID chips. These special chips are capable of sending back all kinds of statistics and facts like position, distance travelled or acceleration in real time. The NFL decided to allocate different data of player’s like speed, runs or even exertion. These facts and statistics were sent to the broadcasters especially for the improvement of the TV coverage and the fans amusement. The new season 2016 will show how the usage of wearable sports data from different broadcasters like NBC or ESPN will develop.

In this context, soccer the biggest sport in the world still lags behind. For years now the players have been wearing all kinds of tracking devices to show their state of fitness. So the coaches can see who is ready for the season and who’s not. But these devices aren’t allowed in competitive matches. The only person on the field to wear wearable devices is the referee. However the introduction of goal line technology marks a big step for the wearable market in football. The biggest European football leagues like the German Bundesliga or the English Premier League already use the technique of wearable technology to arrange a fair game. But all statistics from the players like the distance covered are still registered by companies like Opta und Prozone. They send different data to the broadcasters with the help of on-pitch sensors und video footage. So the most famous sport in the world still has a disadvantage compared to American Football. But this might change soon.

The International Football Association Board, the body in charge of changes of football rules has already discussed introducing wearable devices during competitive matches. The teams of the English Premier League are allowed to wear wearables during the friendly games in the pre-season. It´s still in test stage, but what would an introduction mean for TV coverage and fans? For the different broadcasters the usage of wearable devices to chart data would be a big step. Instead of companies like Opta and Prozone the broadcasters could use live stats from each player to improve the TV experience. Especially for the fans it would be an unbelievable experience to see live data from their favorite players during the game. So let´s see how the usage of wearable data in sports coverage in America will develop. Maybe someday fans will be able to note the heart-rate of a player to shoot the deciding penalty in the world cup final. For soccer this is quite far away still but the technology and capabilities are here today. Check out what Red Bull did and what is already possible today:

This video was shown as part of Red Bull Media House CTO Andi Gall’s presentation at the WT | Wearable Technologies Conference 2016 USA this past July.

Apart from that Denver Broncos player Russell Okung recently mentioned in his keynote at the same conference that athletes might not want to be monitored all the time. The data gathered by wearables and other devices is not owned by the player but team owner. So the player not only does not earn money with wearing a device but also the team owner sees all the data and how good the player is in shape. A player might not necessarily want the team owner to know that they are having a slow month or that they are not on the peak level of their performance. This is only applicable for some sports but still might be a pitfall in terms of adoption by the players. But we reckon there will probably no more contracts in the future without players having to agree to being monitored…