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Online Olympics big for sports fans, everyone else

Rubicon Avid Sports Fan Olympics Viewing Choices

New data on die-hard and avid sports fans says nearly half of them will be watching the online Olympics live. It won’t be just avid sports fans watching online though. This will be the most online sports event ever.

Rubicon spoke with 1,105 US people in May 2016 who self-identified as avid or die-hard sports fans. What they found suggests the Rio summer Olympics could be the most digitally connected games ever.

Rubicon Olympics followers sports viewing habits59% of avid sports fans will be tracking the Olympics scores and results online. Mobile devices look to be a key way of enjoying the games. 44% say they will watch some of the Olympics live online and 36% say they will watch live on their mobile device.

The data also shows that millennial sports fans could be a good target for advertisers during the Olympics. In the group of avid sports fans, Rubicon looked specifically at Olympics followers. They found that 21% of this group watch sports online at least daily, and 17% watch sports on a mobile device at least daily. 41% of millennial Olympics followers watch sports online at least daily, and 36% watch sports on a mobile device.

Millennial sports fans are also exception second screen users compared to the average. Data from iab earlier this year shows that the majority of second screen activity is unrelated to what’s on the television. For example, 71% of adult online users browse the Internet and 58% read and post on social nets about topics unrelated to the show on TV while watching. However, iab also found that 49% of TV viewers search for information on show cast members and 37% search for reviews of products they see in ads while watching.

Rubicon says that millennial sports fans are twice as likely to have a second screen with them while they watch television. As well, 69% said they are on their second screens doing things related to what they’re watching on TV.

Does the Rubicon data tell us anything about what will happen more generally with digital consumption of the Rio Olympics? Not really. Those self-identifying avid sports fans are likely a very small part of the total viewership for the games. Statista puts the number of such fans in the US at under 5 million.

The Olympics is one of the few spectacle events that attracts many non-sports fans. In 2012, 219 million Americans (70% of the entire population) watched the Olympics on NBCU networks.

Signs are that many of us, not just avid sports fans, will be watching the games online as well as on TV.  Although some of the events will be available online without a pay TV subscription, many will require people to login with their operator credentials to watch. Signs are that many more of us are already doing just that.

Time spent watching video authenticated through TV Everywhere continues to grow strongly. Adobe says that authenticated viewing grew 58% between Q4 2015 and Q1 2016, and 107% year-over-year. Freewheel points out that big increases are associated with marquee sports events. For example, authenticated share of online ad views in long-form and live content increased from 13% to 29% between Q4 2013 and Q1 2014, the period in which the 2014 Sochi (Russia) Winter Olympics occurred. A much smaller 8% bump was seen during the 2014 Football (soccer) World Cup in Brazil.

Time zone of the event is definitely a factor in how many tune online, but so is the fact that many events will be happening at the same time. In other words, while Mom is watching gymnastic on TV, Dad can watch fencing on an iPad and the son watch rowing on his smartphone.

Why it matters

New data on die-hard sports fans suggests this could be the most digitally connected Olympics ever.

However, the Olympics is a spectacle enjoyed by the majority of people, not just die-hard sports fans.

That said, avid sports fans are liable to be big digital consumers of the Olympics, and the millennials among them even more so.


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