Sports Is Next

It was unthinkable back in 1996 when the Telecommunications Act was enacted to usher in consolidation that radio would actually recede as an industry ten years later. No one would believe that TV, having survived cable competition, would be taken on by YouTube. Wasn't MTV high and mighty with youth? Who could have known even MTV would struggle with its online reason for being. Everyone seemed to know that newspapers were dying -- thirty years ago -- but why can't they see that online is today's news print and integrity covers a multitude of sins. Well, the unthinkable is going to happen again and it pains me to say it. Sports is going to be in trouble. Yes, football, basketball, baseball and hockey -- (well, hockey has always been in trouble except in Canada and with 18,000 season ticket holders in NHL franchise cities). The generation that has been redefining mass media shows signs that it may be doing the same for sports. The World Series that just ended -- the lowest ratings to date superseding last year's dubious distinction. What may be happening is that an interactive generation may have trouble sitting in seats as spectators. They may have trouble sitting period. This generation -- the one that wants to program its own music on iPods and produce its own video for YouTube -- wants to play not watch. Organized sports may always be around just as radio will likely be. But nobody says major league sports is going to be a growth business in ten years. What will be is gaming. If I'm the NFL, I'm going to set up football franchises for online players and manage the virtual competition. If they ignore the mounting evidence, they do so at their own peril. All the marketing geniuses in the world won't be able to stop a generation that has proven they will not side idly by on the sidelines.