Smartphone technology and social media have changed the way we follow football forever, but how will you been keeping up with the action this season? The O2 Gurus investigate the changing nature of football coverage.

Today it’s impossible to escape from football. An estimated four billion people will be glued to their TV sets, willing their teams on in Brazil over the next few weeks, with fans able to connect to the game in more ways than ever before. But, the idea of broadcasting football matches took some time to catch on. The first televised international fixture took place on 9th April 1938 between England and Scotland, but it wasn’t until the late 1960s that regular broadcasts began.

Since then football coverage has become a multi-billion pound business with the Premier League broadcast rights currently worth around £1 billion each year. The insatiable rise of broadcast money in football has certainly been a controversial topic within the game, but one thing is certain, football fans have more ways than ever to follow the beautiful game.

New technology has also given us greater insight into the game with more stats than ever now available for data hungry football fans. Services like Squawka and Opta now record thousands of data points for each match and collect them in huge databases. These stats have proven invaluable for broadcasters and even coaches looking to help players improve. But they are also great for fans. It’s now possible to keep up with every nuance of the game in real time and analyse teams’ tactics to a degree never before possible.

One innovation that has undoubtedly revolutionised football coverage is the rise of smartphone technology, with a host of dedicated football apps now available for every occasion. Broadcasters have taken some time to adapt, but now football highlights can be streamed almost instantaneously on computers and mobile devices. The rise of ‘near live’ highlights means that instead of waiting to watch Match of the Day, you can now watch a goal go in just a few minutes after it happens on your mobile, wherever you are. This development has been exciting for fans, but it hasn’t come cheap. News International recently forked out £20 million for the Premier League mobile and online highlight rights.

Speed is now a crucial factor in modern football coverage, with newspapers and TV stations racing to be the first to report on the latest breaking news story and publish match reports within minutes of the final whistle. Social media has been a big driver in this race to be first, with fans, players and journalists all connecting on the level playing-field of Twitter. Football coverage has become a conversation between viewers and the media, as fans opinions are given exposure by radio, TV and online publications. Football fans now even have their own social network. One Stadium Live was recently set up by Sony to curate the best posts from around the world on social media to connect fans of all international teams this summer.

But it’s not just a one-way street; fans have started to broadcast themselves and are getting their opinions heard by thousands of others. The rise of football podcasts and YouTube channels has truly democratized football coverage, giving football fans around the world a forum to express their opinions and get the latest on their favourite teams. YouTube channel Copa90 is one of the best examples of the new face of football coverage. The channel goes beyond what happens on the pitch covering the culture of football across the globe and actively encourages its viewers to get involved by commenting on their videos and contacting them on Twitter, featuring these opinions in later videos. Other channels, such as Goal, offer highlights from foreign leagues, and fans of a single club can get together and share the highs and low of their team through one club channels such as Arsenal Fan TV.

Football coverage is a rapidly changing industry, with old broadcasters looking to find new ways to reach viewers and increase revenue and utilising innovative new platforms to express their opinions. With the rise of smart TVs, dual screening and mobile technology football coverage will continue to change and the line between fans and broadcasters will become increasingly blurred.

How will you be following the football? Let us know in the comments. 

You can also read more from the O2 Gurus, find us on O2 Guru TV or visit an O2 Guru in store.

Article image credit: Flickr/Jinho Jung

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