Academy blog

Livestreaming Sports Comes of Age

This year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil made headlines through much of August. Most headlines referring to the quadrennial Summer games made mention to names such as Phelps, Bolt, Biles and Bellemonte-Garcia (and for less savory reasons, Lochte). But now the games are over, and new headlines are emerging. When most people think of the Olympics, glamorous athletes and their celebrity comes to mind, but equal to, if not more important  than those names, are the ratings reported by the networks which carried the Games.

In the United States, the carrier of Summer and Winter Olympic broadcasts is NBC. This year, the “peacock network” reported a viewership decline of 30% from the 2012 Summer Olympics which took place in London among those aged 18 – 34. Does such a sharp decline reflect a lack of interest in this year’s games, or is some other phenomenon influencing younger audiences?

According to The Wall Street Journal, that 30% decline results from audiences straying away from linear television networks as their primary source of Olympic content. Citing NBCUniversal, the Comcast division which operates NBC and her affiliate channels, nearly 50 million people, with more than half under the age of 35, streamed the ‘Games’ online, compared with the 200 million American millennials who did so via traditional television. Furthermore, The Wall Street Journal reports:

When it comes to young viewers, NBCU also boasted about the Olympics’ prominence on social media. The company generated more than 600 million video views of NBC Olympics Facebook video, and created 160 Facebook Live videos. On Snapchat—a channel produced by a team of BuzzFeed editors—nearly 33 million consumers viewed Olympics content. NBC Sports’ YouTube subscribers increased sevenfold during the Games.

Variety estimated that NBC’s Olympic coverage would generate 4,500 hours of content. Furthermore, this year’s Olympics were the first to allow live streaming via Connected TV, and other device applications. Although a cable “sign in” way required, once that was done, users could watch the Olympics anywhere they wanted, including content and programming exclusively available on digital devices. With so many new and convenient online, the lure of digital sources of traditionally linear content is stronger than ever.  

It should come as no surprise that audiences, particularly younger ones, are making the transition to digital platforms to consume video content. Many fans of live sporting events already watch their favorite games in this fashion, and a favorite way to do this is via Connected TV.

Video Nuze reported on a study conducted by Pivotal Research Group which stated that for July 2016, 8.5% of all television consumption among 18 – 49 year olds occurred on so-called “connected TV” platforms, think Roku and Apple TV, or apps for Smart TV’s. That 8.5% is significant for another reason, and it relates back to the percentage of connected TV platforms used to consume video content for July 2016 – it’s not hyperinflated as a result of any Olympic-stimulated demand. That in mind, it was reported in July 2015 that 4.9% of television content consumed by audiences belonging to the same demographic occurred over connected TV platforms. It’s popularity is positioned to increase even more as time goes on.

As internet sourced video content grows in prominence, distributors of same must recall Marshall McLuhan’s famous quote, “The medium is the message”. With so much Olympic content abundant online, it is no wonder linear viewership went down in favor of digital content, obtained using Connected TV services and other platforms. The message here, at least from consumers to providers, is that digital is preferred.

This article began with noting how the Rio Olympics have changed since London and Beijing. That should come as no surprise, society has changed a lot since then as well. Never accept the status quo, in any enterprise, but more importantly, never force the status quo on consumers. It’s a good thing NBC offered online streaming of this year’s games. When audiences are obtaining more and more content online, it would have been silly for NBC to keep the Olympics in the analog realm.

At NPAW, we have a new white paper entitled The Challenges of Streaming Live Sporting Events in which we give insight into ways providers of same can overcome common difficulties, frequently encountered when delivering live content to audiences. We see the future, and we want to share what we know to make sure your organization makes a seamless transition into the modern age.

Also, this year at IBC in Amsterdam, we will be participating in a panel entitled  “The OTT Opportunity for Mainstream and ‘Minority’ Sports” where we will examine  the economic opportunities that live streaming sport events offers – from football to horse racing, from Germany to Thailand – as well as the technical challenges that comes with it and how your organization can improve the way it delivers video. We will also explore the impact of the live streaming services offered by platforms mentioned before such as Facebook Live, Periscope and Snapchat. If you’re in attendance, please stop by the talk presented by our VP of Customer Engineering , Marc Maycas; Dan Finch, Commercial Director – Simplestream; and Rahul Puri, EVP of Engineering and CTO – Magine TV; and as Chairperson Stan Moote, CTO – IABM.  If you won’t be there this year, catch the live stream, or watch the video afterward on, and to download the white paper, go here.

Just another thing to think about from us here at NPAW.

James Noeker on September 09th 2016

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