Athletics: New York City Marathon to harness livestream in fight to attract new fans

Runners crossing the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge over New York Harbour during the 2021 New York City Marathon. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK – The New York City Marathon is embracing livestreaming in a fight to create a new generation of athletics fans in 2022, becoming the first marathon Major to broadcast the race live on its mobile app, organisers said on Wednesday.

The marathon on Nov 6 will already be broadcast to some 530 million homes worldwide, but organisers hope the livestream will reach existing fans abroad without access to a traditional telecast.

“The opportunity to create a new generation of running fans is going to be really driven by content and media,” New York Road Runners’ senior vice-president of partnerships and runner products Christine Burke told Reuters.

“If runners can actually see these athletes perform in a more consistent basis than we’ve been able to deliver in the past, that will go a long way towards adding fans.”

She said the app, which is powered by title sponsor TCS, had just under half a million downloads in 2019 and anticipated that the addition of the livestream would bring in bigger numbers.

While streaming is nothing new to the world of professional sport, Haley Price, head of sports for TCS in North America, said there was “nothing like this out in the sport of running”.

The livestream will encompass the men’s and women’s open divisions as well as wheelchair races and allow viewers to swipe between feeds and track individual runners.

“We think this will set the trends for marathoning worldwide,” she told Reuters.

The announcement comes amid an industry-wide sprint towards streaming, with the National Basketball Association (NBA) announcing in September that its revamped app would include live video.

“It is a move to go where the audience has been moving,” said Dennis Deninger, a professor at Syracuse University who spent 25 years as an executive with ESPN.

Nielsen data released last week showed streaming captured nearly 37 per cent of overall television usage in September, remaining the most-watched TV format.

“This young audience is moving toward streaming,” said Deninger, the author of Live Sports Media: The What, How and Why of Sports Broadcasting.

“So if you have content and you have valuable content, you have to migrate where the audience is.”

For Des Linden, a two-time Olympian who won the Boston Marathon in 2018, the appeal of livestreaming in athletics is simple.

“Allowing the long-form stories to develop over the course of 26.2 miles will give fans the chance to learn about the contenders and appreciate the nuances of racing that they’ve never seen before,” she said. REUTERS

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