THE BLOG
08/24/2016 01:01 pm ET | Updated Aug 24, 2016

Rio 2016 and the Future of Broadcast Sports Marketing

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Catherine Warburton, Chief Investment Officer, Assembly

Did you catch the U.S. women’s gymnastics team win the gold in Rio? And if so, did you watch it on a desktop, your phone or the TV?  Does it even matter? Millions of consumers viewed the Rio Olympics on a device other than their television set, as NBC streamed 4,500 total hours of live competition during the Rio Olympics.  Is this move away from television surprising?  Absolutely not. 

Consumers want to view content whenever and wherever they like.  Their minds go to content first, which they often consume across multiple platforms at the same time.  Today, programmers are delivering a satisfying viewing experience across multiple platforms, and mega-popular sporting events like the Super Bowl and Olympics are certainly helping to expand coverage to digital channels.

Early press reports of the Rio Olympics’ audience suggested under-delivery, but that’s because they were only concentrating on Nielsen television delivery.  For this reason, NBC created its own metric TAD (Total Audience Delivery) to capture viewing across device.  According to NBC’s metrics, there were billions of minutes streamed.  NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus was quoted in Cynopsis Sports as saying “We are aggregating audiences at a scale that nobody has ever seen before. To top that, this will be our most economically successful Games in history, and it’s by far the most viewer friendly TV event of all time.”

While both Nielsen and Comscore are developing syndicated cross screen measurement solutions, the market is impatient and the advertising community is frustrated by the void.  We have embraced digital video as part of our video buys, which were formerly known as television.  There is an undeniable thirst for more data on viewing habits across device.

What’s more, live sports content available via digital streaming has grown to include all types of sports.  Twitter recently forged an NFL partnership where 10 Thursday night NFL games could be viewed on their platform.  This shows that how we think about content distribution is evolving: social channels are becoming content distribution channels.   

OTT is seen as the next big area for ad supported streaming video.  The growth of SVOD has jolted media owners into further investment in this space.  ESPN, who was an early mover in the live streaming space with ESPN Watch, is taking a minority stake in MLB Advanced Media’s BAM tech to expand their OTT streaming offering.  Facing subscriber losses, it certainly makes sense for ESPN to invest further in these capabilities.   

Nowadays, marketers are also challenged from a creative point of view.  Gone are the days of one great :30 commercial.  Marketers still need their big, theatrical television commercials for live television sporting events, but customized content for digital makes sense.  Streaming allows for finer tuned targeting, and extensions into social marketing complete the experience.

All in all, media owners need to monetize content and advertisers need proven ROI.  Consumer media habits continue to evolve at a dramatic pace and are demanding content on their own terms.  Which means, to be successful, advertisers need to be nimble and push for better measurement and data for currency.

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