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Brightcove’s Latest Global Video Index Sees Streaming Sports Scoring Big

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Since the streaming revolution began, pay TV operators have taken some solace in the concept that sports would be their final redoubt … the content they could retreat behind to maintain their walled gardens because streaming sports can be difficult. Latency has been seen as a major problem, with streamed games sometimes minutes behind those delivered by cable or broadcast.

But, increasingly, just as we’ve seen in streaming live news and entertainment content, most consumers have decided that the quality of the delivery is more important than its timing.

Watching NFL Thursday Night Football on Amazon might mean you’re a few more seconds behind the action than you would be watching a pay TV-delivered game, but the streaming offers additional perks, like alternate announcers, expanded stats, data dives, and more.

And it’s not just the NFL. German pay TV provider Sky Deutschland is offering a low-priced sports package on its streaming service Sky Ticket for €9.99 per month that includes live highlights of Bundesliga, 2nd division Bundesliga, and the UEFA Champions League. It also offers live streaming of Premier League and DFB Cup matches, Formula 1, handball, tennis and golf. Customers can also purchase a la carte Bundesliga or Champions League matches for €14.99.

And, of course, DAZN and ESPN+ are streaming hundreds of live events each month, and rumors say the NFL is looking at a major streaming deal in 2020.

There are news stories on new sports streaming almost every day.

Brightcove’s most recent Global Video Index, which looks at hundreds of millions of data points from its customers every quarter, has found a surge in global sports streaming, too.

In Q3 2019, the Video Index found that sports are watched across all devices. Year-over-year, in Q3 the number of views increased on smartphones, connected TVs and tablets. Only computers saw a decline in the number of plays.

Connected TV saw an increase in views of more than 319% over Q3 2018, after an 82% increase in Q2. Smartphone views were up 49% in Q3 and 22% in Q2. Tablets saw 31% and 41% in Q3 and Q2 respectively. The number of streaming sports views on computers was down 17% in Q3 after a 5% slide in Q2.

While sports’ growth spurt is to be expected—the number of premium assets available coming over the top is exploding across numerous sports and in every region—how the content is being consumed is a bit less obvious.

Sports content of every length—from shorts to full games—are watched to completion most often on the biggest screens available. Connected TVs (CTVs) see completion rates for short content (0-5 mins.) 71% of the time, more than any other device. Computers see the next-best rate at 61%, tablets are 46% and smartphones 44%. Medium-form content (6-20 mins.) follows a similar pattern: 75% on CTVs, 45% on computers, 41% on tablets and 32% on smartphones. Long-form (21-40 mins.) sees completions rates of 66% on CTVs, 53% on computers, 41% on tablets, and 31% on smartphones. For the longest content (41+ mins.) completion rates fall off for all, making CTVs less of a clear-cut preference (36%) than computers (22%), tablets (19%), or smartphones (10%).

Smartphones actually see the lion’s share of video starts, more than 54%. Computers, despite losing views for two consecutive quarters, are next at 40%. Tablets follow at 6% and connected TV—despite seeing huge growth—still had fewer than 1% of all starts. But that will continue to change as game-length content becomes more common globally.

Device Trends for all Content

Video viewing of all content—sports, news, and entertainment—continued to grow in the quarter. Smartphones saw an increase of 55% from a year ago, with tablets seeing views increase 12% year over year. Video views on computers were down 3% and CTV views increased by 37%. It was the second consecutive quarter that CTV views were up by more than a third.

Most of us, at one time or another, have fallen into the rabbit hole that is YouTube, following video after video deeper into a lost afternoon. Short-form video (0-5 mins.) always has been at home on computers, and Q3 was no different; short-form made up 58% of plays on computers. But it was smartphones that saw the biggest jump in the amount of short-form video being viewed, increasing some 73% to make up 37% of all plays on phones.

Smartphones, meanwhile, saw the largest share of long-form content (21-40 mins.) being viewed, about 64%. But connected TVs saw the biggest jump in starts year-over-year, increasing 65% compared to smartphones’ 31%.

The Bottom Line

Smartphones remain—for much of the world, especially developing markets like the Middle East/Africa, Latin America, and Asia-Pacific—the device of choice when it comes to watching any content.

Smartphones, especially less-expensive Android versions being rolled out in China, hold the upper hand in terms of device utility, and that’s a big deal where disposable income is somewhat limited. That’s not going to change much, and those developing markets are going to continue to be smartphone first, something that needs to be worked into the foundation of any service intent on playing in those regions.

Even more mature markets, as 5G next-gen wireless comes to bear and younger consumers age into the workforce, will see a continuing tilt toward mobile consumption. The mantra of anywhere you want, on any device at any time is one that will continue to resonate in our space.

Stay tuned.

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