Following sports events has long been an activity relegated to the radio or TV. While viewing live sports on mobile devices had been steadily gaining traction over the last five years, growing smartphone and tablet adoption rates and the increasing demand for accessing live events on the go has spurred a change in that trend this year.
This year — and the 2012 London Summer Olympics in particular — has heralded the coming of age of mobile TV and changed the way we consume sports events on the go.
During the London Olympics, viewers consumed an average of 94.3 minutes of live content via mobile apps. This consumption was nearly equal to the 111.4 live streaming minutes consumed on the Web, with 60% of visits to the official London 2012 site coming from mobile users. In all, the London Olympics saw 159.3 million video streams, compared with 75.5 million streams four years earlier in Beijing.
Studies have shown that users will often try something new (like mobile viewing) for major events like the Olympics, and if they have a good experience, they will stick with it. One study in particular found that 52% of mobilevideo users in the U.K. watched at least one Olympic event on a mobile device. In that same study, 84% of those respondents who reported watching a major sporting event on mobile devices indicated that they had increased their mobile viewing since viewing that event. The Olympics fundamentally changed the entire sports-viewing landscape.
As more devices support HD viewing and high-speed LTE networks roll out, not just in the U.S. but around the world, consumers will use their mobile devices (whether tablet, smartphone or netbook) as not just companion viewing devices, but also as primary screens. Major sporting events like Super Bowl XLVII, the 2014 World Cup and future Olympic Games are even more likely to be watched even more on a mobile device than on a television screen. Consumers now expect mobile TV providers to offer live TV (even if they don’t use it), because they are increasingly expecting to have the same content they get on their television, on their mobile device. They also want to move seamlessly between devices.
Most MVPDs have launched multiscreen video-on-demand offerings or are planning to soon. Live TV offerings, and live sports in particular, give service providers the opportunity to transform what may have been a churn reduction strategy into a path to revenue. Premium bundled services for the sports season will be particularly popular as service providers become more conscientious of consumers’ expectations for multiscreen live TV. The lucrative advertising market for live sports also shouldn’t be ignored when deploying multiscreen live sports services.
To maximize the revenue opportunity, MVPDs must closely manage the cost of deploying these services. Live sports in particular add a significant amount of cost and complexity to multiscreen delivery. Cloud-based managed service solutions will increase in popularity due to their potential for reducing costs and resources, and increasing content accessibility, performance, scalability, reliability and security.
We’re at a breaking point where new devices, faster networks and elevated consumer expectations have helped propel each other forward, creating a sustainable market for new streaming TV offerings and large potential revenue channels for service providers. So here’s to mobile TV — in 2013 and beyond.
Nikki Gore is vice president of marketing at QuickPlay, a provider of managed service solutions for the distribution of premium media to IP-connected devices.