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Restarting live sports
Since the start of the corona crisis, sports competitions and events around the globe have come to a standstill. Now that the strict lockdown measures are slowly being lifted, competitions are working on a restart of competitions without spectators (see timeline). Germany was the first when it resumed the Bundesliga on May 16. The six matches attracted a record 6 million viewers across Germany and the global audience possibly reached a billion, since it was the first and only league to be broadcast on TV. In Denmark, for instance, the six games reached on average 40,000 viewers, compared to 13,000 prior to the pandemic. It shows the international hunger for fresh sports content, even without a live crowd. The absence of fans, however, was highly noticeable on the Bundesliga broadcasts with players’ shouting the only noise to be heard other than the voice of the commentator. To remedy that, competitions such as the U.K. Premier League exploring the use of audio effects, computer generated ‘fans’ and virtual reality products, to bring the impression of a crowd to broadcasts.
The big trust test for Big Tech
Tracing apps are crucial in the corona pandemic-they can alert people when they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 so they can self-quarantine or seek a test. These apps will even become ‘a way of life’, according to Margrethe Vestager, European Commissioner for digital affairs and competition. Although she is famous for defending privacy rights and suing Big Tech companies, she has now approached these same Big Tech parties to help develop tracing apps, offering them the opportunity to show they respect transparency and privacy. Even in the U.S., citizens are hesitant to embrace the digital tools for tracking Covid-19 developed by these parties. Almost 60% of Americans said they could not or would not use the system Apple and Google are developing. Nevertheless, as local apps developed by states have been rather unsuccessful, they may have to rely on Big Tech parties for tracing apps in the end. Either way, tracing apps will prove to be a big trust test for the Big Tech companies.
Central bank digital currencies gaining momentum
Since Facebook announced plans to launch a digital currency in the form of Libra, central banks around the world have begun researching the possibility of issuing their own digital currencies. These central bank digital currencies (CBDC) are different from Facebook’s Libra because they would exist alongside the current currencies these banks issue. Central banks believe CBDC would, among others, improve payment efficiency, safety and know-your-customer arrangements. A recent survey by the Bank for International Settlements shows that while a majority of central banks still say they are unlikely to issue CBDC in the short to medium term, the number of central banks saying they are likely to is growing quickly. In February and April of this year the Swedish and Chinese central banks, respectively, launched CBDC pilot programs. The Chinese program especially, has reinforced beliefs in the U.S., Japan and South Korea that they must press forward with their own initiatives. As momentum builds around the world, we will get more insight into how these currencies are structured and what this could mean for others in the payments sector.