As the likes of Roger Federer and Venus Williams made it all the way to the finals at this year’s Wimbledon Championships, a huge number of tennis fans tuned in to watch the action from the world’s most iconic grand slam. However, with estimates that 74 per cent of internet traffic will consist of video streaming during 2017, broadcast is no longer superior when it comes to keeping track of the latest scores and baseline action.
With 71 per cent of US millennials now watching TV via streams compared to just 54 per cent watching via traditional TV, it comes as no surprise that a growing number of fans prefer to use mobile video streaming sites and social networks to watch and replay the latest ace, break point or rally.
Wimbledon is the perfect example of how fans are now consuming sports via different distribution channels, with many preferring live streaming the action over the internet.
When Wimbledon published its streaming figures for 2015 and 2016, these revealed significant streaming growth. At the peak of the championships in 2015, there were 85 million video views recorded, growing to 106 million in 2016. A further 10.5 million followed the action on social media and 9.6 million using their mobile devices.
Choosing mobile streaming
Why are consumers choosing mobile streaming? The answer is that it gives them unparalleled choice of content, conveniently available whenever and however they want to watch it.
The move towards mobile streaming and social media for Wimbledon is representative of a wider trend around global audiences consuming sports content via streaming. It is becoming increasingly clear that there is a demand for flexible, more personal viewing experiences that are made available by online channels.
Wimbledon is paving the way by making its content easily accessible to a wider audience to meet the demands of the fans. An example of this is the launch of The Wimbledon Channel for the 2017 by the All England Club. The Wimbledon Channel was a dedicated webpage available across select international territories on the events site that live streamed all the action from the tournament. This was effectively an internet based version of the BBC coverage but available across the world and without a television licence. Viewers could also tune into The Wimbledon Channel via social media using YouTube and Twitter to keep up with the action.
According to resent research, 58 per cent of US millennials find new content via their social networks, either through friends and family or from social media. Social media is now a key part of large scale sporting events. Allowing the audience to easily find and share content and comments is crucial to reaching and engage with a wider audience, as well as meeting viewer expectations.
To successfully live stream such a large event, a great amount of pressure is placed on the bandwidth capacity and technical capability of online channels. However, the ultimate test is ensuring that video content reaches the audience unhindered and without buffering across all distribution channels.
There is pressure on broadband and mobile network providers to anticipate and accommodate an increased volume of traffic across fixed line broadband, as well as 3G/4G mobile and public wireless hotspots. As fans tune into live streams as soon as they have internet connectivity, they expect a reliable and consistent stream, with no compromise on quality. Despite the strain on infrastructure, it is key that every stage in the process, from broadcaster to network operator has the capacity to keep the fans connected in real-time, whenever they have an internet connection.
Meeting the demand for instant and real-time streaming is the greatest challenge online streaming services face. This is particularly true when millions more people than normal want to enjoy uninterrupted content whenever and wherever they like. As such, content providers and network distributors are required to increase their traffic capacity during peak viewing periods to ensure that internet connections can be used by consumers as an effective entertainment delivery medium.
Using a robust and flexible media technology platform will ensure the highest quality streaming experience for end users, and a seamless way to stream content over increasingly congested networks, ensuring consumers are always in on the action.
Consumers are faced with more choice in terms of platform, channel and device. The onus is on broadcasters, studios and over the top (OTT) providers to work with network operators to develop new distribution models. Services that match the evolving mood of consumers and their lifestyles. Ultimately, it’s about giving them what they want, when they want it. This means helping consumers to access, navigate and consume video content in new ways, while all the time ensuring that the streaming experience is seamless. It is therefore increasingly important for events that when they share content via live streams on Twitter and Facebook, as well as via YouTube and the website, that the underlying delivery platforms are capable of providing consistent access at all hours.
Looking back on this year’s Wimbledon, in the battle for the final serve, millions of tennis fans across the country tuned in to watch via a live stream. What did they expect? Quality, real-time, uninterrupted content via their mobile device or social networking site. How did they get it? Via a superior, tailored and connected service with the goal of creating an enjoyable experience for the viewer.
Gert Rieder, chief executive officer, Falcon Media House
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