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Streaming Accelerates for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony, Says Conviva

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This year's opening ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics revealed some interesting highlights as noted in the latest report from global streaming media intelligence firm Conviva. Viewers flocked to digital viewing as global time spent streaming spiked 279% over the 2018 Olympics opening ceremony day.

Conviva measures more than 500 million unique viewers annually, and their Olympics data includes more than a dozen publishers and aggregators streaming the games globally.

Smaller screens surprised as mobile phones and desktops each captured an impressive 27% of opening ceremony streaming viewing time. For comparison, Conviva's latest State of Streaming report notes global time spent streaming is typically dominated by larger screens, as mobile phones and desktops captured only 11% share each while larger screens, including connected TVs, smart TVs, and gaming consoles, captured 73% in Q1 2021. Big screens only captured 38% of viewing time for the opening ceremony.

Live streaming is technically very challenging, and the stakes are often higher for a good experience. Unlike with linear TV, managing streaming quality of experience metrics—such as video start time, video start failures, buffering, and bitrate—is essential to ensure viewers stay tuned in. For the 2020 Tokyo games, the stellar growth in time spent streaming on opening ceremony day was also accompanied by impressive quality.

Viewers on opening ceremony day had a slightly longer wait for their video to start as video start time was up 5% versus the average Friday over the previous 90 days. The tradeoff for this wait was that viewers were treated to 35% fewer start failures, 7% less buffering, and 1% higher bitrate. Overall, the streaming quality of experience was exceptional.

It can be even more difficult to deliver a flawless experience when concurrency peaks, as it did during the opening ceremony when nearly 20% more viewers tuned in during the second hour than the average of the four-hour show. The peak of the evening coincided with the conclusion of the main show. While a noticeable drop in viewers began shortly thereafter as the ceremony transitioned into the Parade of Athletes, viewing sustained at a significant rate throughout the event.

Streaming and social media often go hand in hand. Publishers can use social media to drive viewership and viewers use social media to create community around their favorite streaming content. The Olympics commences with the opening ceremony, and it is often the most consistently watched part of the event. Viewers not only streamed the opening ceremony in record numbers, but they were also interacting more than ever before with the national Olympics accounts and national sports organizations on social media.

National Olympics committees of countries around the world steadily grew their social media engagements in the eight weeks leading up to the games with impressive 60% week-over-week growth. But it was the week of the opening ceremony that engagement truly skyrocketed, up a massive 341% just from the week prior and 970% as compared to the average of the past eight weeks.

Twitter was particularly active during the opening ceremony. While Twitter is typically thought of as a text-first platform, the top posts for official national Olympics committee accounts on any social media platform were tweets that included videos. Kazakhstan won the honors of most total engagements and highest engagement rate for a video of their flag bearer posted on Twitter. The video earned more than 150,000 engagements in a single day. The most video views also came on Twitter as Brazil captured 1.4 million views on their opening ceremony video.

Team USA had the largest social following of any national Olympics account with nearly 7.3 million followers, more than double the next closest organization. Top content among the official accounts for individual Team USA sports included Olympic newcomers, USA Skateboarding, with the highest engagement rate for a tweet highlighting the team’s opening ceremony fashion. USA Basketball’s welcome to Tokyo for Zach LaVine netted the organization both the most total engagements on Instagram and the most video views on Twitter for any Team USA opening ceremony social post.

It's uncertain how the challenges of the past year might affect the 2022 Beijing Olympics, but it will be another chance to benchmark how dramatically the way people consume media has evolved.

For more details on the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony streaming and social trends, you can download Conviva's full report.

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