Nickelodeon broadcast its first NFL game during the Wild Card round of the playoffs, sliming touchdown scorers and naming a hilariously-unworthy Mitch Trubisky NVP -- Nickelodeon Valuable Player -- despite his Bears getting blown out by the Saints.
It was light and fun and an attempt to engage a younger demographic on a channel they're already familiar with. But while this initial broadcast was a success in nearly every conceivable way, it was also a precursor for what will likely become a more widespread movement for future live sports broadcasts.
As Generation Z and Generation Alpha come of age, the pursuit of traditional live sports broadcasters to capture their attention and convert them into longtime viewers has never been more complicated or competitive. The NFL, FOX, CBS, NBC and other leagues and broadcasters are fighting for eyeballs against the richest and most savvy tech companies in the world, companies that invest billions annually into developing software that keeps kids' eyes and fingers glued onto their respective apps and away from live sports. They're also fighting against the reality that traditional television is a dying medium, replaced by mobile phones, tablets, computers and myriad other ways to consume entertainment.
For the two aforementioned generations, born between 1995 and now, this isn't about cord-cutting. They never had a cord to begin with.
So how do you engage the youth of today given that uphill climb? By following the lead of the social media competition.
If you watched the documentary The Social Dilemma on Netflix, you know one of the biggest ways social media companies have hooked users is by feeding them information that agrees with their beliefs and principles. It's why a Republican in the Midwest who Googles "Donald Trump" or searches for him on Facebook will get vastly different results than a Democrat who searches the same term in the Northeast. Social media services and the mathematical algorithms they developed have determined we (humans) are more likely to stay on their site longer and engage with the content at a higher rate if they present content we agree with. It's part of the reason we're so polarized as a society today, but that's a different conversation.
Based on that logic, which has been proven accurate through years of testing by those tech companies, the most effective way of converting the next generation into consumers of live sports is by presenting it to them in a medium and style they agree with and already have a positive association with. So that means the Nickelodeons and Cartoon Networks of the world. But this idea goes far beyond one generation.
As live sports ratings continue to tumble because of cord-cutting and diverted attention, and the importance to attract new viewers increases to keep advertizing revenue flowing, expect to see more live sports broadcasts that cater to that network's user base moving forward. Why not a tailgate party on Food Network? Or a "Real Housewives of the NBA" watch party on Bravo? Or a "Standup Comics Watch Sports" on Comedy Central? Or maybe an MLB show on History Channel? Jokes aside, tailoring live sports broadcasts to different user bases could be a tactic employed by leagues to increase viewership in a time where that is becoming increasingly difficult.
Leagues have already started broadcasting live sports on platforms like YouTube, Amazon and Facebook in an effort to attract the attention of those monstrous user bases. But Nickelodeon presented a different template for a future where sports viewership is tailored to the individual's interests and outlook based on the platforms they already consume content on. Like social media, it will cater to the individual and not the whole, hooking the next generation on sports the same way they were hooked on social media.