When a bidding war recently broke out over it, we started thinking about the future of the Outdoor Channel, a channel that obviously resonates and is popular with men. But, beyond the Outdoor Channel, what's happening with technology and outdoor sports -- hunting, fishing, etc.?
Sometimes, within the insular world of brand advertising, marketing, and ad agencies, and the people who work in those industries in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, we can forget that there are millions of people in this country who spend their free time in the woods hunting, fishing, hiking, riding ATVs, etc. And, just because those pastimes aren't on our radar screen doesn't mean that they haven't been impacted by technology -- just like so many other hobbies and interests.
Check out these numbers. In the first quarter of 2013, Cabela's, the world’s largest direct marketer of hunting, fishing, camping, and other outdoors merchandise, reported sales of $802 million, a 29% increase year over year. That's only $200 million from breaking $1 billion in sales for just three months. That's a passionate audience investing in their passion -- hunting and fishing. But, not only are they buying equipment, these hunters and fishermen are downloading smartphone apps developed specifically for these age-old pastimes.
With this hugely passionate audience in mind, let's look at a couple of other trends, and then we'll connect the dots where we think these will converge. A few short years ago, many media pundits scoffed at the idea of someone watching a live video game stream. Who is going to watch someone else play a video game? That's like watching paint dry, many people would say. However, that skepticism ignored a generational shift.
We all grew up watching and cheering for the Yankees or the Red Sox, the Patriots or the Jets, or the Celtics or Knicks. Certainly, as viewership shows, the NFL is popular as ever with sports fans. But, now, video game watching is growing in popularity, too.
In fact, Twitch just announced a partnership with Xbox 360 to bring its live video game streaming content to XBox 360 users. Twitch currently has 34 million unique monthly viewers watching live video game streams -- competitive matches and routine players battling it out. That 34 million is up from just 23 million in November 2012.
GoPro cameras are another technology trend that is forging the future of hunting and fishing, outdoor and extreme sports. As soon as digital cameras became portable, skiers, mountain bikers, skateboarders and other sports enthusiasts began crafting ways to film the action -- often with cameras duct-taped to their helmets or poles. The GoPro camera has made it dead simple for these adrenaline enthusiasts to film the action without missing a beat.
With all those pieces in place, we think the future of outdoor sports like hunting and fishing will be live streamed. A hunter or fisherman will strap on a video camera, or Google Glass soon enough, start a live feed, and an audience intently interested in this pastime will watch the action either live or recorded. Hunters and fishermen with special techniques will be able to show them off or teach viewers the tricks of these trades.
Skeptical? You shouldn't be. Witness what happened organically with the introduction of Google+ Hangouts -- live, video chats -- once people figured out they could use a smartphone to join a Hangout while on the go. Now, all around the world, photographers (not hunters or fishermen) are conducting photo walks -- live streams as they walk through nature or a city taking photographs, and active fans join these virtual photo walks (i.e. Hangouts) from their computers (including some handicapped people who don't have the ability to leave their homes). If you haven't seen it, here's a video.
As consumers become more and more accustomed to an always-on connection with live-streaming video to every digital device, we think it's inevitable that live video streams of hunting and fishing will be popular. Will every hunter or fisher be a participant? No, but enough of them will so that media companies and brands should start thinking about this future.