The Future of the Spectator Sports Experience: 4 Questions for Anssi Vanjoki

To kick off 2017, Verto Analytics sat down with some of the most innovative thinkers in media, technology, and advertising to discuss the state of the industry and the year ahead. We’ll be sharing these conversations throughout the month; subscribe to our newsletter to receive them all.


Anssi Vanjoki spent two decades at Nokia, where he held roles as head of both the Digital Convergence and Mobile Solutions units, among others. While at Nokia, he drove some of the company’s most significant mobile solutions and software initiatives, including the advancement of the Symbian/S60 operating system and the development of the new generation smartphones, such as the N-Series handsets. After leaving Nokia in 2010, he joined the faculty of Lappeenranta University of Technology in Finland and also serves as a mentor and investor to many analytics, health, and mobile startups.

Professor Vanjoki has been one of the most outspoken and forward-looking executives within the telecommunications landscape. He has spoken in Finland and internationally about the evolution of the industry, the world of “mobile phones turning to computers”, and the importance of media and entertainment within the mobile user experience.

While at Nokia, Professor Vanjoki also collaborated with several Verto executives, overseeing a number of initiatives to collect data on smartphone user behavior. Some of these technical research models and product models were built by Verto Analytics CEO, Dr. Hannu Verkasalo), Head of Research Dr. Timo Smura, and Dr. Tapio Leva. Moreover, Professor Vanjoki’s work at Nokia helped Finland create some of the most sophisticated intellectual property and competencies around not only mobile applications, but also consumer insights and analytics.

Verto Analytics (VA): Please tell us a bit about yourself, and what projects you’re currently working on.

Anssi Vanjoki (AV): I turned 60 this year and entered the next decade of my life. The next ten years will see the rise of ever-richer digital experiences fueled by the creation of a virtual dimension that perfectly mimics reality and will leave a living trace of every moment and event, which we will be able to recall on-demand. These traces will also enable us to forecast much of the future and automate routines, leaving us humans to excel in what we are best at: creative problem solving. My days are filled with addressing these thoughts in pragmatic ways with a particular focus on health, wellness, and sports, and considering how digital technologies and analytics will shape these fields of activity.

VA: New smart devices have changed the world a lot, at least in terms of user behavior. What do you see the next big trends in terms of monetization and commerce within digital? What is going to change the mass market around the most in these dimensions during the next few years?

AV: Digital and mobile remove key aspects of distance and time while adding complete context relevancy to real time events, and this will shape a number of consumer experiences moving forward. For example, spectator sports will continue to draw a huge fan base, and the real time nature of these events will remain at the core of these passionate fan experiences. However, digital will enrich these events in important ways: player and team movements, positions, physical strain, and other information will be made available to spectators, and broadcasts will display game and athlete analytics in real time. This will also create new forms of sports betting and other adjacent revenue-creating opportunities. Consumers already partake in some of these basic digital, mobile experiences while watching sports events and broadcasts: viewers follow statistics on their mobile devices while watching the event in real time. Soon, each of these sports events will also include long-tail entertainment and advertising opportunities with features like quizzes, fantasy leagues, and statistics-enriched event clips.

VA: Back in 2000, you were already speaking about the convergence of telecom, media and entertainment. We’re seeing a new round of consolidations in digital media, particularly in the US: AT&T is on the way to acquire Time Warner (following its earlier purchase of DirectTV), and Verizon bought AOL and is on track to take over Yahoo. Is this finally happening now? What overarching trends does this reflect?

AV: Consolidation of network assets will continue and the same will be true for media. Convergence has already happened, and content production and distribution will be increasingly vertical. The value of creative talent, new formats of programming, and rights for the best entertainment (including sports) will continue to increase. Gaming companies and popular sports leagues will increase their value many fold as AR and VR develop and possibilities for re-living and role playing in virtual reality becomes mainstream.

VA: You were one of the most senior leaders for Nokia for almost two decades – now, in 2016, what is your primary mobile device?

AV: My primary mobile device is an Android tablet, a Samsung Galaxy Tab S. It is pocketable, but delivers great audio visual experiences – and it has a telephone as well!

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