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Sports Industry Outlook 2022

From media rights to NFTs, PwC unpacks the hottest trends

The ninth edition of PwC’s Sports Outlook for North America reflects the resurgence of in-person sports amid the ongoing pandemic and the acceleration of many key trends that continue to shape the business of sports. This year, PwC offers 10 predictions about the hottest issues facing the sports industry.

Inside this year’s report:

  • Sports betting
  • M&A
  • Resurgence of live audiences
  • Sports documentaries and reality TV 
  • Sponsorships
  • Fan-created content
  • Mixed reality

We also offer expanded playbooks for sports executives on three key areas to examine in 2022 and beyond, including NFTs and digital assets, smart venues and media rights. These new playbooks combine with last year’s deep dives on revenue strategies, sports betting and DEI to provide extended POVs on critical areas for sports business growth.

Sports NFTs and the future of digital assets

Lots of ink has been spilled about NFTs (non-fungible tokens) and other digital assets — what they are, how they’re used and their potential. This playbook focuses almost entirely on that third bucket: the vast potential for NFTs and how they will likely shape the future of sports.

We look at three use cases and their potential to shape fan experience and boost bottom lines.

Collectible NFT sales
Collectible NFTs — typically licensed by leagues, teams or individual athletes — essentially serve as trading cards for the digital world. For sports organizations that are serious about digital assets, collectible NFTs should be explored.

Season ticket member NFTs
Many teams have started to consider how tickets could become digital tokens, providing ticket holders — especially season ticket members — with access to special content in the real world or around the stadium experience. Importantly, this could also provide teams an opportunity to serve their season ticket waitlist. 

Virtual access tokens
Collectible NFTs and STM tokens are, in some ways, just evolutions and enhancements of traditional loyalty programs. But combining the metaverse with digital assets — including both fungible and non-fungible tokens — enables a whole new market for more fan segments. Virtual access tokens can allow special access during games, plus new forms of social experiences and opportunities to engage with teams, athletes and other fans within a metaverse. Athlete access is critical for reaching the next generation of fans, and while social media enables access today, the metaverse can significantly expand opportunities.

Download the report and playbook to read more about how these digital assets may shape the future of sports entertainment.

Media rights: Content still rules. Streaming accelerates. Big Tech weighs in.

Distribution continues to drive revenue in sports media, as the shift to streaming accelerates. Deep-pocketed tech companies have entered the market as strong competitors to traditional broadcasters, which is contributing to soaring rights costs and perhaps signaling a threshold: We may be approaching the moment when streaming becomes the preferred platform for premium sports content. 

Consider this: The top pay-TV providers drew about 77 million subscribers in the United States. That compares with nearly 340 million over-the-top (OTT) media subscriptions. Major streaming companies — Disney, WarnerMedia, NBCUniversal, ViacomCBS and Amazon — are expected to spend $20.7 billion on sports content, according to MoffettNathanson. Meanwhile, regional sports networks are finding it more difficult to successfully compete for rights, which is eroding the value of cable TV sports bundles. 

Download the report and playbook below to see where the market is moving.

Make it magical: Build revenue with smart venues

Sports fans are returning to America’s stadiums with higher expectations than ever. That means they want much more than a win at game’s end. Fans expect — crave — a memorable experience. Competition for in-stadium fans is fierce, not just from rival teams, but also from the lure of the 75-inch television in the living room. 

How can a sports team deliver those indelible experiences, building fan loyalty even as it boosts revenue? Download the smart venue playbook to learn three key areas teams can focus on to help win fans’ allegiance.

Contact us

Michael Keenan

Managing Director, Sports Practice Leader, PwC US

Vicki Huff Eckert

Vice Chair, Technology, Media and Telecommunications Consulting Leader, PwC US

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