An electric-car race in Brooklyn over the weekend highlighted the future of live entertainment and fan engagement. High-speed data and ubiquitous connectivity are changing everything, including sports.
The event was the 2019
(ticker: ABB) Formula E race, run through the streets of Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood.
In its fifth season, Formula E is an all electric, open-wheel racing series with 13 races and 11 teams fielding 2 cars each. Speeds can hit 170 mph, and the electric cars produce sounds more akin to a Star Wars battle scene than a traditional car race.
The race offered spectators and investors a look into the future of interactive sports entertainment.
Take the speed, for instance. The 170 mph top speed is, in part, limited by power-output rules. Cars could go faster by sending more juice to the motors, but, just like other racing series, there are standards set by stewards. In Formula E, however, fans can vote for their favorite driver, which, thanks to connectivity, can be translated into a power boost. So, more popularity equates to more speed.
If it sounds a little like
’s (7974.Japan) Mario Kart, it is. And there’s more. Drivers who choose to pass through a power-boost lane can get roughly an extra 10% power boost for a minute or two. Formula E calls the boost “attack mode” and cars glow when attack mode is active.
Beyond feeling like a scene from “Ready Player One,” there are some investment implications from the innovation.
The interactivity is enabled by higher-speed data connections. It is one example of new applications enabled by forthcoming networks like 5G, being built out by telecom companies such as
(T). It also highlights the benefits of live entertainment to content operators like
(DIS)—viewers can’t DVR the event if they want to participate in fan voting. And fan engagement is another example the power social media has to keep consumers engaged on its platforms. The Formula E voting, for instance, required a
And those examples don’t consider what the experts in user engagement—videogame companies such as
(EA)—could do with technology like this. As an example, inside the race village next to the grandstands, fans could race a driver in a Formula E videogame while the race was taking place.
So if fans can boost race-car speeds, what’s next in this brave new entertainment world? Perhaps crowdsourced penalty flags during NFL games? Maybe a 4-point-shot power boost for the NBA’s Steph Curry? Or what about an extra 30-seconds tacked on to a hockey power play if a team holds the puck for a given amount of time?
Barron’s doesn’t know what’s likely to develop, but we bet it will be interesting.
Write to Al Root at email@example.com