We’ve been hearing it for years: streaming is coming for sports. People still want to watch live events, but they also want to cut the cord. They don’t want to be forced into a cable bundle, but they want to view live sporting events. It’s one of the great conundrums of our time for sports fans who are more tech inclined. Well, apparently that time of streaming is upon us.
According to a study by Conviva, the NFL is seeing a huge jump in streaming plays and time spent streaming content. Football fans are able to watch their games through multiple methods. Check out the infographics below.
- Mobile NFL grew more than overall mobile growth – mobile NFL was up 95% vs 57% growth in plays for all content
- Primetime NFL viewing was up more than overall NFL viewing – primetime NFL saw 109% growth in plays and 97% growth in viewing hours vs 72% and 83% respectively for overall NFL viewing
Of course, the percentage plays should see a huge jump because a small number can double a lot easier. This is beyond rudimentary, but if 10 people were streaming last year and 10 new people stream, that’s a 100 percent increase. If 100 people were streaming last year and 20 new people stream, that’s a 20 percent increase. We know that 20 — total number of viewers — is greater than 10. The same logic goes for minutes and plays. We may see lower increases in the future, but it will be due more to early adopters setting a baseline.
As for the NFL’s role in this, they have been ahead of the curve when it comes to streaming which makes the league a great baseline for future studies. The NFL has now had streaming deals with Twitter, Yahoo! and Amazon for its Thursday Night Football product and London games. They’ve split off streaming rights and sold them to make extra revenue off the content. They’ve tested multiple different streaming partners — all listed above — and have seen what works and what doesn’t. For a league often — wrongfully — criticized about not looking toward the future and wanting to stay in the now, the NFL has been ahead of the curve for streaming. They are now seeing the benefits from increased viewership numbers. They are reaching a younger and more technologically engage demographic. When it comes time for a streaming service to bid for exclusive rights — Thursday Night Football games are simulcast on traditional television — the league and its potential streaming partner will have a handle on the best way to engage customers.
There are still issues with streaming. It’s on a delay so if there is a traditional consumption method option, it is ahead of the stream. This makes it difficult to monitor social media since the last play could be ahead of the stream. The new normal for many fans is two-screening games which involve watching on a television but monitoring social media on their computer or their smartphone. Eventually, a social media stream will be easily overlayed on the right side of the screen of the actual gameplay footage, but for now we aren’t totally there.
The major takeaway is that we are seeing an increase/ change in viewing habits and at some time in the future, there will be a tipping point. That could be when the NFL grants exclusive rights to a streaming partner such as Amazon, Twitter, Facebook, Google, Yahoo! or DraftKings — yes DraftKings said it wants to air NFL games — or it could be when the customer base forces leagues to move to streaming because cable subscribers simply age out.
The benefits of streaming are tremendous. It’s easier to track information about viewers over the internet than it is over television. The information is more granular. Someone like Amazon would also have purchasing habits. This makes streaming extremely valuable to advertisers. In a world where data is king, streaming views actually provide more information to the NFL and its partners than traditional television. Monitoring the amount, type, and people who stream will help the league increase revenue. It’s actually in the best interest of the NFL — and other professional leagues — to see streaming numbers increase as long as the companies that stream games can provide enough revenue to match the traditional rights holders. Right now, those streaming companies can’t offer billions of dollars like the ESPNs, CBSes, and FOXes of the world. In the future, they just might be able to. At that point, it would not be a shock to see leagues prefer to deal with streaming partners because of the ancillary benefits.