Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Impact of Mobile Viewing on Sports Networks

The 2015 College Football Playoffs on New Year’s Day saw the cable TV viewing records be beaten not once, but twice. In fact, 28.271 million viewers (the most of all time) tuned into ESPN to watch the Ohio State Buckeyes defeat the number one seed Alabama Crimson Tide 42-35 in the Sugarbowl. This was preceded by the Oregon Ducks winning 59-20 against the Florida State Seminoles, which received 28.164 million viewers (the second most of all time). These viewing figures had increased by 51 percent and 150 percent, respectively from last year’s games.  

So, with figures like these why do many people believe that TV is dying out? Of course, events such as the College Football Playoffs do not occur every day, however I believe that TV is not dying out, but is simply adapting to the challengers that have recently emerged.

The recent popularity of companies such as Netflix has pushed many major channels to create ways to watch programs and stream live shows online. This has come about in correlation with the advancement of tablet and smartphone technology which now allow you to stream video. Daily media usage for tablets has increased from 21 minutes per day per person to 159 minutes from 2010-2014, smartphones have increased from 40 to 134 minutes, and television only increasing from 269-279 minutes.


ESPNis a prime example of the online charge as 1,728,000 unique viewers used Watch ESPN, its new online stream to watch the Football on New Year’s Day. That huge number of people will have been ESPN subscribers on cable, but were able to watch the game remotely despite not being at home with their cable box via Xbox, laptop, tablets and smartphones.

Despite this surge of online streaming. Bloomberg News discovered that U.S. pay TV subscriptions fell in 2013 from 100.9 million subscriptions to 100.8; not exactly a terrifying statistic for TV companies. Bloomberg’s Ian King points the finger at young people or ‘cord-nevers’ who have never paid for cable or satellite television. These ‘cord-nevers’ are mostly students or young graduates who turn to alternatives such as YouTube, Netflix or Google Play to watch their most loved shows at cheaper prices than a TV subscription.

However, more often than not these people’s families will have television sets; it was found that TV reaches nearly 90 percent of US households. So the recent drive to provide remote online streaming means that these people who may not be able to afford a TV subscription can still watch cable and satellite channels such as ESPN but in different locations. From personal experience, while I was at University in England I was able to watch the FA Cup final live (the English, less glamorous version of the Super Bowl!) while my family watched it at home, instead of having to watch season three of Friends for the ninth time on Netflix.

There is a belief amongst many people that these young ‘cord-nevers’ will continue to use cheaper alternatives as they are used to living without cable TV. I, myself am living in a foreign country on a small budget so television is not a priority, but I believe there will come a time where again I will be able to afford the luxury of satellite TV and I will want to provide it for a family and for them to watch remotely when they themselves can’t afford it.

Understandably, the emergence of cheaper alternatives to watch television shows has caused a decline for cable and satellite TV providers. I believe that the battle for TV domination will continue and TV will have to keep adapting to keep up with the increasingly mobile world but it will not become a thing of the past. People will continue to sit down on New Year’s day to watch Football Playoffs with 28 million other people.

About the Author: Harry Kempe, a marketing intern at IIR USA, who works on various aspects of the industry including social media, marketing analysis and media. He is a recent graduate of Newcastle University who previously worked for EMAP Ltd. and WGSN as a marketing assistant on events such as the World Architecture Festival, World Retail Congress and Global Fashion Awards. He can be reached at hkempe@IIRUSA.com.



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