Digitally Activated: Sports Centered

A Look at Online Sports Activations

March Madness on Demand: Streaming Live Sports to the Consumer

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We will always watch sports on the biggest screen available (Kint, Jason).  It is simple math, 60 in > 14 in >10 in > 4 in.

Sports produces a visceral emotion which is tied to the artistic beauty of witnessing athletic greatness.  And as art has moved from caves, to temples, to cathedrals and into the Met, our spectating experience has moved from radio, to black-and-white, to color, and into HD.  We have always sought out authenticity in our viewing experience, and this need will continue to be the defining quality of our viewing habits.  Results from the 2011 NCAA Tournament support this argument.

Through the Elite 8 of this year’s NCAA tournament, CBS and Turner Sports (TBS, TNT and truTV) averaged a 6.8 rating in the top 56 US markets*.  This translates into an estimated average audience of 9.4 million viewers per night. Furthermore, nearly 100 million people have watched some part of the tournament.   Television’s hegemony on the publics viewing habits becomes apparent when the tournament’s ratings are juxtaposed to MMOD stats.

Through the Elite 8, more than 41.6 million visits have been registered to March Madness on Demand across the online, iPhone and iPad platforms.  These visits account for 12.7 million hours of video streaming, with the iPhone and iPad MMOD app accounting for 29% of video streams (Multichannel.com).  These numbers are quite impressive; however, MMOD viewership pales in comparison to the television viewership, being bested at a rate of nearly 5:2.

The disparity between television and online viewing is not an indictment on the lack of penetration or breadth of online viewing, but rather a validation of the theory that online viewing is a supplement to television consumption and not a competition.

The benefits of online streaming are twofold – 1. it reaches the disenfranchised fan (San Diego State fans in NYC without a tv) and 2. it enhances the viewers experience by providing camera access and angles which are unavailable from the broadcast (NBC Sunday Night Football), neither of which compete with the traditional broadcast experience.

If online streaming of games challenged the integrity of game broadcasts, would the “Most Innovative Company in Sports” dare allow its customers to view its games online with ESPN3.com – putting into jeopardy its more than $4 billion in cable subscription fees per year?  This presumption is supported by the fact that online video streams for MMOD have been the highest for the early Thursday and Friday games – while most people are presumably at work.  I would argue that the same conditions lead viewing patterns to increase on the iPhone and iPad during the weekends while people are living their life, but want to know what is happening in the San Diego State vs. Temple game (we won).

People want the flexibility to consume sports whenever and wherever they please, but this does not mean that they will forgo experience for convenience.  If you don’t believe me, ask my friends at Qualcomm headquarters about Flo TV.

The idea of living in a multi-screen world is to enhance our reality.  Our senses must be stimulated like never before; we expect to be moved by the experience of watching an event.  A multi-screen world provides us with numerous outlets to consume the content which we desire – sports.

In opening ourselves to this content, we are also opening ourselves to corporate sponsors.  We must embrace this reality and be grateful, because they are the ones the make the content possible.

* TV ratings were weighted down by the First Four match-ups

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