SXSW 2014: How Sports Have Mastered Social

“Thanks for letting us watch where and when we want— no more illegal streams for me.”

With that comment, one sports fan and audience member at the “24 Hours Sports in the Age of Bite-Sized Content” panel perfectly illustrated how successfully sports networks have adapted to the new media ecosystem. In addition, many brands could learn from how NBC, Fox Sports, and the NFL Network have used social to their advantage:

Talent. Social media is an ideal channel for both finding new talent and establishing their credibility. Trustworthy, engaging personalities make it easier for audiences to connect and allow networks to provide authentic news and other content.

Audience Interest. Monitoring trending topics on social media helps networks understand and promote what fans want to talk about. The debate over the infamous Roger Sherman interview, for instance, started on social media but was quickly carried over into programming.

Participation. Not surprisingly, sporting events are perfect vehicles for fans to debate and trash-talk. Allowing people to chime in, whether through video or other media, makes them feel like they’re part of the greater community.

Flexibility. Sports networks understand that audiences are platform-agnostic: if a better way to access content emerges, they will happily switch. As a result, the networks are constantly testing new formats to see what best serves the fan.

Personalization. The more data people provide, the more networks can deliver information that is specific to them, including favorite players, teams, and regions.

All of this adds up to a stronger content package that is more valuable for both viewers and advertisers.