Advanced Television

Sports viewers go online and multi-screen

August 10, 2012

By Colin Mann

Research commissioned by Tier 1 Internet operator Level 3 Communications to ascertain current trends in viewing broadcast sport has revealed that the Internet is challenging traditional broadcast technology as a means of delivering programming content.

The company suggests that a “perfect storm” is brewing as intense competition between content providers and device makers meets faster, more widely available broadband communications and an insatiable appetite for sport programming on the part of viewers.

The result will be waves of innovation that will change the way we view our favourite games and stars, and the opportunity for viewers to see sport on multiple screens that allow many different ways to understand and enjoy the contests they are watching, says the firm.

The interviews were conducted online by Redshift Research between May and June 2012, using email invitations and an online survey, and polled men and women who watch sport on TV or online. These findings were then presented to a range of broadcasting specialists to glean their insight into what the trends would mean for sport viewing.

Among the key findings:

• Experts say immersive and social experiences will take viewers even closer to the action and improve their understanding, but study results highlight a disconnect between need for online consumption and current broadband infrastructure.

• The London Olympics may act as a catalyst for changes in the way viewers consume sport as 58 per cent of consumers said they would watch sport online during the Olympics, compared to 49 per cent who watch sport online today.

• One in five viewers say a poor online streaming experience affects their enjoyment of sport viewing, and this rises to one in three (33 per cent) in the 18-24 age group.

• Almost half (46 per cent) of the 18-24 age group say smartphones and tablets have transformed their sport viewing.

• Online broadcasting is now as popular as traditional TV. Over half of consumers (58 per cent) plan to watch sport at the time of the 2012 Olympics online, the same number who will also watch some events on terrestrial and satellite TV respectively. And online viewing for the 18-24 age group is staggeringly high: 95 per cent will watch sporting events during the Olympics on the Internet.

• Connected devices such as mobile phones/smartphones (15.8 per cent) and tablets (14.4 per cent) together make up over 30 per cent of responses on which technologies have had the biggest impact on sport viewing, with interactive services cited by a further 15.6 per cent of respondents.

The report suggests that broadband Internet, together with new device formats and extended content, is changing the way people consume sport, making it more interactive, customisable and social. “Broadcast rights owners will increasingly mix broadcast and web, while new developments in technology will take sport into new realms, changing the dynamics of how we appreciate games, and potentially changing the sports themselves,” says Level 3.

According to firm, there will be other complex questions that arise as the Internet and traditional broadcast coalesce. Bandwidth availability and device formats and platforms will need to be factored into broadcast decisions from an early stage. But on the positive side, if more video moves onto a standard IT platform and is delivered over the Internet, this opens the way for more coverage of more sport that more people can enjoy.

“Just as with any great sporting contest it’s hard to predict the outcome of what happens next in sport broadcast. As technology continues to evolve at a rapid rate, it’s become clear however that the future will be thrilling and take viewing to a new high. For the foreseeable future, sport viewing will be made up of a combination of broadcast and Internet technology with each complementing the other and dovetailing. By building a stronger Internet, it will be possible for viewers to watch their favourite sports from anywhere and in any way they desire,” concludes Level 3.


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