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    Distribution and innovation look set to continue to transform the commercial sporting landscape in the year ahead, as digital technologies provide the foundations for continued disruption. Here are 3 trends leading the charge.

    Live streaming battles will heat up

    With the arrival of Amazon to Premier League rights in 2019, it might be 2020 and beyond before we start to see significant shifts to the biggest sports rights. But this might be the year when the groundwork is well and truly laid.

    With Eleven Sports bursting onto the scene and then struggling to cope, we’ve seen just how hard it can be to burst through the strongholds of BT Sport and Sky Sports in the UK market. DAZN, for the moment, look to have their sights set elsewhere, too.

    But despite setbacks for evangelists of live-streaming, the battles will heat up. There is something in this. It might be that Sky, BT and others can build their own live-streaming platforms to complement or even eventually replace their own linear platforms, but whatever happens the sports world is moving towards watch-anywhere and on-demand content as well as smart TVs and consistent experiences for users across all devices.

    Women’s sport will carve out a new set of sponsors

    Women’s sport had a stellar year. From the seeming ubiquity of Serena Williams to the inspirational feats (both sporting and personal) of Simone Biles and the rise of sports like netball to cult status there was a swell of interest.

    That’ll only grow in 2019, and that’s not just because of a desire for equality or for fairness – it’ll grow because it makes good business sense.

    The Netball World Cup will take place in Liverpool this year, bringing more interest to a sport that’s already growing rapidly, the Women’s Football World Cup will come to France in 2019, too.

    The industry is mining all it can from men’s sport and the next logical place to look for growth is in women’s sport. So, we’re very likely to see new names sponsoring women’s competitions in the new year, and reaching a potentially different audience to that of the male versions.

    Could that bring new brands who hadn’t considered it before into sports sponsorship? We think so!

    Esports will help other sports emerge

    This is an interesting one, but one that’s already happened a bit in 2018.

    Formula 1, Nascar and others are paving the way for esports to breathe new life into motorsport. The fact that this can be done on a mass participation level means that it can be something of a marketing tool to bring new fans to the sport, but there’s also a crossover in the skills and techniques needed between the esports version and the real thing.

    Could it be that the likes of the Zwift esports series or something similar in other sports could bring a new audience to cycling and beyond? There are sports more suited to esports than others, and if they can take advantage of that, we could end up seeing new-found popularity among sports that are currently quite small.

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