The leisure industry today, including the business of sport, is being shaped and reformed in many ways. As society changes and evolves, so have these industries necessarily evolved. Just as changes in the sport and leisure industries have influenced society, changes in society have equally influenced the sport and leisure industries. One of the more significant societal influences on these industries has been technology- its developments, its progress, and its impact on the way we live, work and play.
While technology has produced countless innovations that have modified our lives, and in turn our time devoted to leisure, it is not only the nature of these innovations that has altered our leisure activities, but also the number and variety of these innovations that have influenced our lives and in effect, the industries themselves. The leisure industry of late has seen an explosive shift from a limited market with limited options for the consumer to an explosive, and often overwhelming, market of choices and options. Technology can largely be credited for this explosive shift. As Kevin Brass of Video Store Magazine explains, “The advent of the Internet and satellites and 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound doesn’t mean people are spending more time relaxing at home. It simply means they have more choices.
Every new entertainment tool, from PlayStation2 and TiVo to Pop.com and WebTV, cuts into the pie” (Brass 2000). While high-tech may increasingly equal entertainment, it also equals more forms of entertainment. For the leisure industry, this means fiercer competition for those discretionary dollars allotted for leisure expenses and competition for the consumers’ limited time in an age with countless ways to divide that time. Industry leaders will have to take continual steps to differentiate from the competition, to stand out among a sea of entertaining and appealing options. They will need to make an extra effort to know their consumers and cater to their most salient interests and desires. Marketing techniques, and especially marketing research, will play a more important role than ever. There will be increasing pressure to capitalize on any and all means of distribution and advertising, particularly in the virtual and online-oriented society of today.
Not only will the competition be vicious within the multi-faceted leisure industry, but we are also seeing technological advancements increase competition between work-time and play-time. According to Diane Brady of Business Week, “High tech, which was supposed to free people from the office, has in practice eroded the boundaries between work and leisure. There is no haven from e-mail and the telephone, no excuse not to produce at any hour of the day, and no obstacle to turning your kitchen table into a work station (Brady 2002). Yet Brady also notes that “as work-time encroaches upon our leisure time, so too has leisure time crept into the job (Brady, 2002).
So as technology continues to erode the boundaries between precious leisure-time and devoted work-time, it may in fact make our lives more flexible, our time more interchangeable. We may in fact be able to be in two places at once, spending time with family and friends in the comfort of our own homes while at work-virtually. These changes in lifestyle have the potential to open up a whole new market, one that combines work and leisure, creates more accommodating ways to produce for one while enjoying the latter. Here, technology could potentially double our available leisure time, reducing time spent in transit, eliminating the exclusive reservation of 40 hours each week for work and opening up that time to countless possibilities for leisure activities that can be enjoyed while working.
While technology may in fact increase competition in today’s leisure industry, it may also open the door for explosive new markets yet to be explored.