Online Sports Put Viewers in the Heart of the Action

More than 3,500 years of content were watched live during the Winter Olympics, quadruple the amount NBC showed in Sochi. It’s an impressive number.

What’s more impressive is these centuries upon centuries of content weren’t delivered through a set-top box. They were live streamed to internet-connected devices, in the kitchen, in the living room, direct to the palm of your hand on your phone.

This year’s Olympics weren’t the first to offer live streaming—that honor belongs to London in 2012—but it was the first to live stream all event coverage. With live streaming, fans were more connected than they’ve ever been. They could see contextual information about the athlete, the sport and the weather conditions, and, with the right equipment, get a 360-degree virtual reality view of the action.

Connecting fans is what live streaming sports is all about. They’re able to watch on the devices they prefer and get coverage when and where they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. They can watch with other people, and watch any event with concurrent streams. As Mark Lazarus, Chairman of NBC Sports, said, “the Olympics offered an unmatched consumer experience.”

So what does the Olympics’ success mean for the future of sports? It means that service providers need to keep offering live streaming to meet consumers’ desire for live streaming. In fact, viewers ages 18-29 were four times as likely to stream than watch via broadcast. Pay TV caters to a massive audience—live sports streaming caters to the audience of one.

Want to hurtle down the track with the bobsled team or watch the Oscars live from your phone? Done. Want to watch an event halfway across the world? No problem. Live streaming lets fans be part of the action right when it happens, no matter where they are or where they’re watching.

For operators, there’s no better opportunity than tapping into these fans’ passion. Not only does offering compelling sports content engage fans, it enriches their experience. The more options and customization you make available, the more likely they are to find a viewing experience that meets their needs.

And service providers can design that from the start, setting up different levels of access. The casual fan can watch an ad-supported free stream, while the most ardent fans can be upsold with unprecedented access to the athletes they care most about.

And those athletes or events can be anywhere in the world. If you offer feeds in different languages, you diversify your content for a global audience. In addition, by reaching consumers directly, sponsors are more willing to pay for the event because they have a direct line to the consumer.

Other sports are already taking action. As the Winter Olympics wrapped up, the mobile industry’s premier event kicked off, buzzing over a new OTT launch. At Mobile World Congress last week, Formula 1 announced the launch of their streaming service, F1 TV. Subscribers can watch live streams in multiple language, and zip down the track with 20 on-board camera feeds.

In the press release, Director of Digital and New Business, Frank Arthofer said the objective was to provide fans with “the best sports OTT customer experience in the world.”

As long as the experience stays focused on the fan, they’re sure to win.