Sep 11, 2018

Virtual Reality: A Gateway to Sports and Travel Revenue

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Advanced technologies today are driving innovation in the consumer’s purchase decision journey. Customer-centric companies are offering access to more convenient, immersive and personalized experiences for people to discover and buy their products. In our series of three tech trend focus reports, we look at how evolving technologies—virtual reality, chatbots, and data-driven personalization—are meeting the demands of today’s digital consumers.

Virtual reality and video streaming technologies are being adopted in the sports entertainment and travel industries at an accelerating rate. Some organizations are starting to see the potential for new revenue streams, reaching larger audiences, and luring customers with immersive vacation previews. Adoption is expected to rapidly spread, with global distribution of new VR headsets to exceed 50 million units annually by 2022, shows a report by BI Intelligence.1

Reaching More Sports Fans

Both Twitter and Facebook Live use video streaming to attract larger online audiences to events around the world. At Hashtag Sports, a sports tech innovation festival in NYC, industry adopters see VR and video streaming as a new or enhanced offering to entertainment fans that generates additional revenue. Think of how cable TV broadcasting expanded viewing audiences for professional sports. It doesn’t replace fans in the seats because VR still doesn’t give consumers the full event experience.

“You fill your arena with 18,000 people. There are 7.5 billion who might want to watch. Do the math,” commented Peter Guber, chairman and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment Group, during a panel discussion at the VenuesNow conference in July.2

MLB stepped up to the plate by streaming select baseball games LIVE on Twitter in September. The NBA offers a subscription-based virtual reality season pass, which includes any eight games for fans that follow a particular team but can’t attend the games. The International Champions Cup (ICC) has partnered with NextVR since 2015 to stream the first of many live VR broadcasts of major league soccer matches.3  

“That [VR] creates a totally new opportunity for brands to touch consumers outside of the match itself,” added Daniel Sillman of RSE Ventures, whose venture Relevent Sports hosts the ICC.3

A Travel Teaser

Because of travel’s experiential nature, a number of hotels including Best Western are testing or investing in virtual reality technologies. By giving potential customers a 360-degree view of properties online, these companies expect to increase the chances of customer bookings. For instance, Carnival partnered with AT&T in 2016 to show American consumers 360-degree simulations of its cruise ships in over 100 stores using Samsung’s Gear VR headset.4

Thus far consumers have been slow to adopt virtual and augmented reality, but VR devices will soon reach a critical mass. Industry leaders in travel and sports that discover new and innovative ways to leverage the technology are likely to grow both their customer base and revenue streams.

Check out next month’s tech trends series on chatbots and virtual assistants.

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1. “The Virtual Reality Report,”, 2016
2. “The Fan of the Future is Now,” Venues Today, 2017
3. “Five Technology Storylines Impacting ICC,” Venues Today, 2017
4. “Carnival Sets Sail With Virtual Reality Vacations,” Fortune, 2016

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