In the Betting on Racing track at Betting on Sports 2018 there was a discussion on elitism in horseracing and whether the sport needed simplifying for a new audience. It is a debate that is not confined to horseracing and other sports have already tried “light” versions of their events. But is it want new audiences want?
Snooker has had its one-frame Shoot Out for several years, with a maximum match length of 10 minutes, shot clocks, raucous audiences. It is a ranking event but not all of the top players choose to compete.
Not content with the Twenty 20 format, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has been running trials for a 100-ball city-based game. The intention is to attract a new audience to the game with a short, television-friendly format.
Horseracing in the UK has created the Shergar Cup meeting at Ascot to add a team element to a racing fixture.
Research by McKinsey (2017) concluded that “millennials enjoy sports just as much as members of other generations. It’s the way they consume sports that matters”. The problem that needs solving is that of “declining attention spans”.
It could be the case that new sports are betting equipped to appeal to younger sports fans in how they are streamed, presented and accessed.
Mixed martial arts (MMA), esports and drone racing all have fast-paced action, comparatively short matches/rounds, action which lends itself to eye-catching highlights packages and strong social interaction with fans.
In October 2018 Rahul Sood, CEO of esports specialist Unikrn, wrote on Twitter:
“The UFC [Ultimate Fighting Championship] welcomed our COO to their HQ this week. We also unveiled a test for UFC betting to our audience and the volumes have been incredible.
Think millennials don't have money? That there is no crossover from Esports to other sports? Ya think [sic]?”
The NFL has been hosting regular season American football games in London since 2007. In doing so it has not attempted to alter the game’s format for what could be perceived as a novice audience. But the league’s commissioner Roger Goodell told The Times (NFL fans in London know the game):
“It’s hard to tell the difference when you are at Wembley, than being at any stadium here in the US watching an NFL team. They [UK fans] understand the game, they understand the strategy, they understand what’s happening, they criticise the officials just like they do here”.
It could be the case that new audiences do not necessarily want simplified sports but just different ways of watching and getting involved in the action.
We are wrong about millennial sports fans (October 2017)