Europe Leads Charge to Mobile Sports Viewing with Boom in Post-Match Content

European countries, especially the UK, Ireland and Spain, are leading a global explosion in online sports viewing via mobile devices, including tablets and smartphones. This has been confirmed by Australian Telco Telstra’s Q3 2016 Global Video Index based on analysis of online viewing by 220 million people around the world.

The report, prepared by Telstra online video platform subsidiary Ooyala and including research conducted by revenue security provider Irdeto as well as analyst firm SNL Kagan, found that mobile devices now account for 54% of all sports video views in Europe having passed the 50% mark during the year, compared with 52% in the USA and an average of 49 per cent globally. It also found that mobile viewing in general now accounts for 52 per cent of all online video views worldwide, again having passed the half way mark during 2016.

Just as significant as the headline figures are some of the nuances buried in the research, notably relating to rapid growth in non-live on-demand viewing of replays, highlights or supplementary content around events. It has been assumed that sports viewing would be very predominantly live and, while that remains the centerpiece, events have generated great opportunities for operators and rights holders to derive revenues from such secondary content.

This trend was already evident in 2015 when Ooyala started following a popular but unnamed European football club during the year, as it has also done in 2016. The study found that during Q3 2015 fans of the club viewed on average 75 per cent more videos on the day prior to a given match and more than 100 per cent more on the day after in the form of highlights, game summaries and match replays. The combination of pre and post-match viewing amounted to a three-day window for content providers to maximize fan engagement and ad revenue, as well as to drive viewership across all online devices, but especially mobile.

This trend has accelerated during 2016, with the average daily number of video plays associated with this particular club increasing by almost 70 per cent over the year and the maximum number of plays more than doubling. Ooyala also noted that non-live views spiked after the home team wins a match, when the club averaged nearly 100 per cent more video plays by the end of Q3 2016 than a year earlier. This spike was most pronounced when the team won against a historic rival, which caused video plays to jump more than 230 per cent as fans went online to gloat over their team’s triumph. Ooyala suggested that such findings give sports providers a tremendous opportunity to publish more content after wins to maximize fan engagement and boost revenue as fans flock online for game highlights and player interviews.

The survey also reported some notable overall trends, with Q3 2016 being the first quarter to exhibit growth across all screens for mid- to long-form video consumption, defined as content over five minutes long. Again, confounding earlier predictions, consumers appear ever more comfortable viewing longer content on mobile devices, on smart phones as well as tablets. Now mid- to long-form content accounts for 48 percent of smart phone viewing, up more than 23 per cent from last year.

However, this may reflect the continued roll out of 4G/LTE services delivering higher bandwidth as well as Wi-Fi hot spot expansion, and what we are seeing is that people want to watch video wherever they are on the best screen available at the time. This is borne out by the fact mid- to long-form content consumption is also growing on PCs, up from 43 per cent to 57 per cent over the year, as well as on connected TVs, up from 73 per cent to 93 per cent. Only tablets showed little change with the proportion of viewing accounted for by mid-to-long form content having been stable at around 65 per cent for the past five quarters.

Naturally for short-form content under five minutes long, the smart phone at 52% is the device of choice as viewers still watch sports highlights, news, events and content designed specifically for the smallest screen most often there.

Although the UK and Ireland remain at the vanguard of mobile video growth in Europe, these two countries were overtaken by the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain across all video plays during 2016. In the Netherlands mobile now accounts for 65% of all video views, with Belgium on 59% and Spain 56% all nudging ahead of Ireland and the UK at 50% and 46% respectively. Meanwhile the rest of the world is closing the gap fast with the proportion of online video views occurring on mobile devices shooting up by 16% to 52% compared with Europe’s 2% to 54%. It is a good bet therefore that the rest of world will actually overtake Europe this year, driven by regions such as North America where mobile viewing is growing rapidly, as well as developing countries where fixed broadband infrastructure is lagging behind. 

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