SMT (formerly SportsMEDIA Technology) has become a winner in its role in the sports media market. Unlike many other digital disruptions, SMT has become a winner by partnering with sports media incumbents instead of using technology to disrupt them. The company signs long-term contracts with sports leagues, such as the NHL, and sports media companies to provide real-time delivery of data and social media for live television of sports and entertainment. Together, the partnerships have enhanced the viewing experience and improved engagement across a growing number of platforms such as mobile and social media.
How did SMT win a foothold in the sports media market?
SMT was founded in 1988 with its first product being real-time scoring and wireless data delivery system. This product was first adopted by the PGA Tour who used this new technology to replace walkie-talkies used to deliver scores across a golf course. A couple years later, SMT signed a four-year contract with ESPN to provide sports design graphics for live televised sports events. Today, after additional product development and acquisitions, they offer enhanced digital services, on-site operations, commentator support and augmented reality products.
How does SMT create value?
I believe SMT creates value for the end-consumer (the sports fan) and the media partners. The sports fan benefits from SMT in the following ways:
- SMT technology products enhances the viewing experience of live-sporting events real-time sports data, design graphics and other products
- Real-time tacking technology adds convenience and ease of accessing sports data which leads to increased engagement of the sports fan to their favorite player, team or league
Additionally, media partners benefit to partner with SMT instead of taking on these digital technology capabilities themselves. Some of the value create for the media companies is:
- Convenience of outsourcing technology expertise and services
- A competitive advantage to other sports media stations
- Adds a selling point when bidding for big event contracts (i.e. Super Bowl or Olympics, both which SMT has been involved in)
SMT has a winning strategy for a number of reasons. First, they have found a service that compliments incumbents instead of disrupts them, which allowed them to scale quickly. They presented themselves as an easy solution for media companies to outsource technology innovation at a time when the televised sports industry was being disrupted by new platforms, such as mobile apps, streaming, twitter and social media viewing (an easier solution for incumbents than the Havas/V&S case where an incumbent tried to fully integrate with a disrupter). Second, SMT has remained a private company which has allowed them the speed and agility to keep up with the pace of technology and makes them well-suited to pair with a less-agile media incumbent. Third, after decades of expansion in sports media, SMT has endless opportunity of growth and expansion into other complimentary industries including entertainment, education and medical. While expansion into new industries has been an intention of their business, it is important that they maintain their foothold in the sports media market and they continue to set the pace of innovation in that space. We have seen this with two recent funding rounds and acquisitions of Sportsvision in 2016 and Information and Display Systems LLC in 2012.
Can SMT save sports TV viewership?
It is true that most major sports leagues have been experiencing a decline in TV viewership including the NFL, MLB and NHL. While SMT has arguably improved the TV viewing experience, TV as a viewing platform is being disrupted by other options such as mobile apps, streaming and social media, leading to a decline in TV viewership.
With TV viewership in decline, is SMT still a winner?
I would argue yes, SMT is still a winner even as TV viewership is declining. SMT services also enhance streaming and apps using technology and live updates and may even charge higher rates providing technology for multiple platforms.