Multiple screen media opportunity for sport

The fact that British consumers squeeze nine hours of media use into seven hours each day demonstrates a clear opportunity for the sports industry.

A report published by UK communications industry regulator OFCOM has highlighted the fact that the British population, especially 18 to 24 year-olds, spend two or more hours each day multi-tasking with different media and communications devices. This is particularly due to the rise of smart phones and the mobile internet.

While TV and radio remain popular, watching and listening are often combined with internet surfing. Reality shows with live voting are credited for increasing the popularity of media multi-tasking but sport also plays a significant role. Although the data comes from a UK survey, it’s likely that the pattern is replicated in many countries.

Arguably, South Africa 2010 was the first dual-screen World Cup, where spectators watched matches on TV (or live streaming) while simultaneously chatting with friends, checking statistics and commenting on Twitter. The Guardian tracked Twitter coverage of every match.

Broadcasters face a challenge to keep their audience’s attention during sports events and may need to use Facebook and other tools to do so. If they succeed, there are further opportunities for sponsors and rights-holders to reach consumers.

However, the opportunity is probably bigger for media other than broadcasters who for the first time can claim a significant audience share during live events. Activity such as live text commentary, which CricInfo and others have done well for a number of years, was previously a “second best” option for fans unable to watch live on TV. Now various extra value online services are complementary to live broadcasts.

Newspapers, online gambling and fan sites are well-placed to benefit, if they can get their offerings right. As I mentioned in a previous post, there may be new attempts to establish paid-for sports content or sports news operations may merge to create scale. Services could target TV viewers, spectators at venues, office workers and various other audience segments.

ESPN has taken the plunge and launched a paid-for iPhone App showing Premier League goals soon after they are scored. Major League Baseball provides a comprehensive video, audio and stats service for iPad users. Others are sure to follow.

Meanwhile the demand remains for match reports and highlights after the event (preferably available online at any time). However, the bigger opportunity is to find ways to reach the multi-tasking audience during live events.

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