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Live Streaming of Sports Events Enters New Era

22 Feb, 2017

By: Michael Popke
With a Record of 1.72 Million Viewers Per Minute, the Super Bowl Hit a New High

In case you doubted the viability of streaming live sporting events, we present Super Bowl Sunday as Exhibit A: FOX Sports GO, the streaming platform for FOX Sports, broke viewership records during the New England Patriots’ historic come-from-behind 34-28 overtime win.

It averaged 1.72 million viewers per minute, up from an average of 1.4 million in 2016. In a tweet, FOX Sports claimed a total of 113.7 million viewers on FOX, FOX Sports GO and FOX Deportes — tied for the second highest average viewership across all platforms in Super Bowl history.

But such large streaming numbers came with a price. “Many people on Sunday complained about FOX’s stream, which went down briefly during the second half and forced fans to watch the Spanish FOX Sports GO feed,” according to GeekWire.com.

In another streaming first, the men’s college volleyball site Off the Block streamed the first Facebook Live video of a men’s college volleyball match when No. 2 UCLA took on No. 13 Penn State in the AVCA Showcase and Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge at Ohio State University.

“While UCLA had Facebook Live coverage of the national anthem and starting lineup introductions, Off the Block streamed the actual match,” SportsTechie reports. “The live stream was smooth, like icing on a cake. The sprinkles on top? [Off the Block founder Vinnie] Lopes’ live commentary of the match. … If streaming men’s volleyball matches is this simple, perhaps anyone can do it.”

Facebook Live can stream from just about anywhere that offers a strong internet connection, but Twitter has a larger lead in social media’s sports streaming marketplace. Twitter inked a reported $10 million deal with the NFL last season to stream Thursday Night Football games, resulting in an average of 3.5 million unique viewers per game.

On a post-earnings phone call with analysts on Feb. 9 Twitter COO Anthony Noto noted that the live NFL streams “exceeded our expectations on both revenue and profitability for both us and our partners.” He credited the success to Twitter’s younger user base and international reach, and he said “we will look to partner with [the NFL] in a bigger way.”

Meanwhile, the NHL recently began live streaming games on Twitter to both logged-in and logged-out users in the United States.

High schools, which long ago discovered streaming as a way to reach alumni and other out-of-town fans while also providing valuable real-world experiences for students interested in broadcasting, now are partnering with digital media companies to take those services to a new level.

“With millions of events held each year and over eight million high school athletes across the country, Atlanta-based PlayOn! Sports [a leading high school sports media company] estimates a revenue opportunity of around $2 billion a year just through live streaming games,” according to Fortune.com.

“High school has always been this untapped giant,” adds Zach Leonsis, general manager of Monumental Sports Network, which owns the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals and is testing subscription-based live streaming of high school hockey.

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