How a summer of sport will create a new dynamic in broadcasting

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64 years have passed since the UK last hosted the Olympic Games. The 1948 Olympic Games was the first post war Olympics acting as a symbol of world unity, representing optimism and hope for the new world. It will also always be remembered as the first Olympics to be shown on television.

Since 1948 the UK, the Olympics and broadcasting has moved on. Television broadcasts are now not only available on the television sets consumers have in their homes, but also on smartphones, laptops and Tablets, allowing you to watch content whenever, wherever.

By the time London 2012 starts on the 27th July, it is expected to take digital viewing opportunities to a new level and will almost certainly be the largest in the history of live video streaming and potentially the most watched event of all time.

With such a plethora of products enabling people to watch content in many different ways, live and on-demand, broadcast and streamed over the internet, in long-form and short-form; audiences will have multiple opportunities in how and when they view this year’s Olympics. It presents broadcasters and sponsors of London 2012 with a host of opportunities running up to, during and after London 2012.

As media usage fragments, it is increasingly hard to know what your audience is really doing with digital media. Deciding where sponsorship opportunities are and identifying which will be a commercial success is no easy task and this is where understanding through research can help.

That’s why Essential Research, part of the SPA Future Thinking Group has developed the Essential Eye; a continuous study of UK adults providing a comprehensive single source of insight focusing on how and why audiences use digital media and technology.

Breadth of Broadcasting:
The BBC, as in 1948, will act as host, broadcasting over 5000 hours of the Olympic Games. It is making 24 separate HD-quality live video streams available to satellite and cable broadcasters and aside from the BBC, Sky and Virgin Media will have the capability to show every single minute across all of the Games’ sporting events, effectively enabling people to create their own tailored viewing experience, on any device they want to use.

Broadcasters go 3D:
As well as HD, the BBC will be showing the opening and closing ceremonies and the illustrious 100m men’s final in 3D, while Eurosport is launching a dedicated 3D channel. 3DTV penetration in UK homes is estimated to be just 6%, but many feel that these showpiece events could be triggers to further 3D uptake, just as the 1966 World Cup final showcased the potential of colour TV broadcasts and, 40 years later, the 2006 World Cup drove uptake of HDTV.

With a recent survey conducted for Freeview suggesting that 3D is lacking wide appeal compared to other technologies, it remains to be seen if the Olympics will spark the consumer demand for 3D that pay TV broadcasters such as Sky are investing heavily in.

Whilst a majority of UK consumers are aware of 3D services the latest Essential Eye data highlights that 60% believe it to be hype and currently only 15% believe 3D to be a must have device.

Multiplatform opportunities:
Multi-platform viewing has been a hot topic for a number of years. The emergence of smart phones, tablets and other devices has enabled consumers to view content on the move, and away from the arm chair. Broadcasters are therefore enabling content distribution through a wide variety of media by developing content for mobile and tablet apps as well as apps for video streaming.

Recent figures from The Essential Eye show that the UK is leading the way when it comes to smartphone use – we’ve now reached a point where more than half of UK adults have a smartphone (56%) – and 12% have an iPhone. Additionally 70% of smartphone owners have used their smartphone to access the internet in the past week rising to 82% of iPhone owners. Meanwhile tablet usage has also grown from 3% to 11% within the last 12 months.

Back in 2008 the BBC saw huge demand on their website for Olympic content with 9.7m hours of Olympic video consumed on the site. Watching live video on the site averaged at 15 minutes per day, whilst watching clips on demand averaged around three minutes 20 seconds per day.

Four years on however, with growth in smart mobile technology and video-on-demand a common part of everyday lives, for many, the expectations have changed.

The success of Sky Go illustrates the appeal of watching content on the move for the UK consumer. Sky reported in January this year that they had over 1.5 million unique users per month accessing Sky Go- which can be viewed via laptop/pc, mobile or Xbox. The recent rollout to Android mobile phones will only grow the customer base. Likewise the BBC in May 2012 reported that iPlayer usage has shown a 94% increase in mobile users in the past 12 months, with 15 million visits in April 2012. (Mobile devices now account for a total of 15% of all programme requests).

With huge demand expected, the technical challenges of delivering a smooth experience to VOD users watching the 2012 Olympics will be a key concern for ISPs, broadcasters and mobile network operators.

Sponsorship & advertising:
Here at SPA Future Thinking we have over 15 years’ experience of working alongside leading brands,  broadcasters and media agencies. Our Comms Suite helps analyse and measure the impact of sponsorship (our broadcast sponsorship optimisation solution uses data from our 450+ study strong norms database), product placement and multimedia campaigns.         

With 11 worldwide partners, seven Worldwide Olympic Partners, a further seven London 2012 Official Olympic Supporters and 28 Official Olympic Providers and Suppliers this year’s Games will not be short of sponsors.

For Worldwide Olympic Partners such as Samsung it has enabled them to launch the Samsung Galaxy S III as the official handset of the 2012 Olympic Games. For Samsung it’s a great way of ensuring maximum exposure and for Olympic enthusiasts it also includes special Olympic content.

Sponsorship offers a multitude of objectives from brand positioning, signalling, generation of trials and ultimately sales. These opportunities will not simply focus on targeting consumers but also trade, clients, investors as well as positioning the brand within the community.

Key for sponsors to understand will be sales opportunities. The Essential Eye, shows that 87% of iPhone users and 66% of smartphone users regularly check their emails on their phone (March 2012). There will be massive opportunities for brands to engage with their audiences at the Olympics at a more immediate level. Currently 14% of mobile phone owners have received promotions and vouchers from places near to where they are and an additional 11% would like to receive these.

For other companies who didn’t want to part with huge sums of money to sponsor the Olympics, the question of how to stand out over the Olympic period when customers are bombarded with Olympic messaging is important. Even after avoiding the banned buzzwords associated with the Olympics – such as ‘2012’, the spend on advertising is likely to clutter the market with a huge range of messages. With industry analysts predicting a “summer of love” for ITV, it becomes more important for communications to stand out – a role where traditional research can prove effective in ensuring your advertising spend isn’t wasted in a sea of competing messages.

Those not interested in sports:
Channels not covering the Olympics this summer will therefore be hoping to capture those audiences with little interest in sport and for these broadcasters knowing your audiences will be key to protecting audience share and advertising revenue.

Here at SPA Future Thinking our knowledge of media and marcomms extends from brand proposition and development, effectiveness of broadcast sponsorship, to researching all forms of today’s media. For more information please contact John Whittaker on +44(0) 1865 336 400 or email john.whittaker@spafuturethinking.com  

For more information on the Essential Eye and Essential Research please contact Stuart Knapman on +44 (0) 20 7843 9777 or at stuart.knapman@essentialresearch.com