The Change Function, by Pip Coburn
Warner Brothers Announces Studio 2.0

Sports: The Ultimate TV-Online Hybrid Opportunity

Like any red-blooded sports fan, I just spent too much time watching a number of opening day college football games. Despite my love of sports and technology, I rarely see an opportunity to combine the two. Wouldn’t you think there would be a good reason to have a laptop handy to augment the game on TV? The skeptics say it will never happen because the veg-out mode of TV doesn’t mesh with the interactive requirements of the web. I happen to believe the only reason sports nuts don’t use a laptop and remote simultaneously is because there’s no killer app…yet.

Why doesn’t ESPN (for example) have a dedicated site for every game currently being played? The site would offer several cool things, including:

  • A pair of trash-talking chat windows, side by side, where fans of both teams can comment on the last play, make fun of the other team, etc. Comments from both sides are streaming in throughout the game.
  • A customizable interface, allowing me to track whatever in-game stats I want to, not just the generic box score set-up they currently offer. This interface would also let me build my own custom scoreboard featuring a few other live games; clicking on any of those other games takes me to the same rich interface, but for the other game.
  • If ESPN is broadcasting the game, why not post replay videos for everyone to view a play or two later?

These sites could go live an hour or two before each game, letting everyone state their predictions up-front in a community pre-game format. Over time, some of the more noteworthy participants will emerge and could become visible moderators or “hosts” for future games. It could also stay up for an hour or so after the last play, until the winners are completely finished with their celebration and taunting.

How many old college buddies, who now live hundreds of miles apart, would rather hop onto a site like this instead of calling each other on the phone after every big play? Heck, why couldn’t ESPN embed an audio/video IM service so that you and your buddy could talk directly through this page while you also enjoy the rest of the community’s commentary in the chat windows?

Yes, there are plenty of challenges to something like this, but none are insurmountable. For example, what do you do with those nitwits who insist on obscene language? Why not have a moderator who tosses them off and bans their IP address from future use of the site? And talk about site stickiness…wow, the advertising opportunities really open up when you figure someone’s likely to be checking in on this screen throughout an entire game.

This program wouldn’t just be limited to those games televised by a particular network. Why couldn’t ESPN (or any other site) offer this for every live sporting event that day? Granted, they couldn’t include the video option I noted, but that’s more of a minor feature.

I’d use a service like this. In fact, I’d be willing to pay to have access to a service like this, which is pretty unusual for a cheapskate like me. I’d see it as a $5/month program, $10 max. If it really gave me access to this sort of community interface and offered the chance to bust on the opposition’s fans it would be worth every penny!


Tom Britt

The latest cable set top boxes have this capacity and the cable companies are pushing hard to do this. These boxes have hard drives and processors just like a computer, but to your point, no one wants to interact with television. Research show that over 60% of all home computers are in the same room as a television. Take your thought a step farther, what if you were watching the game and on the bottom of your split screen was a chat session going on with other fans in their living rooms watching the same game. Maybe even a few webcams?

Joe Wikert

Hi Tom. Although set top boxes have been pegged as the silver bullet for interactivity I'm not sure it's the solution to this one. Perhaps I'm in the minority, but when I'm watching a game on TV I want the entire screen dedicated to the game and nothing else. I even hate it when those crawlers and 30-at-30 scoreboards pop up, turning my TV into one that has about 80% of its original screen size.

I like the webcam idea, but only as a feature on my computer, not my TV. Speaking of which, for anyone who figures the system would get overloaded with too many comments from too many people you don't care about, why not let users select who they can trash-talk with and only show those comments? That way you could create the equivalent of a private session between you and your sports buddies, letting the system filter out all the comments from the rest of the participants.

Joel Fugazzotto

Don't leave out the feature which allows the fans to decide the team’s starting lineup each night. Could you imagine?!!


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