Online video streams as popular as TV during Olympics

The London 2012 Olympics Games are driving an unprecedented phenomenon: online video streams of the sporting action are proving just as popular with UK viewers as broadcasts on conventional TV platforms, according to Content Delivery Network (CDN) operator Level 3 Communications.

In a report compiled for Level 3 by Redshift Research, it was found that over half (58%) of the 2,000 UK consumers polled plan to watch sport at the time of the 2012 Olympics online – the same proportion as those who will also watch some events on terrestrial and satellite TV respectively.

Even more importantly, the London Olympics are expected to act as a catalyst for lasting change in viewer behaviour: 58 per cent of consumers said they would watch sport online during the Olympics, compared to 49 per cent who watch sport online as part of their normal viewing diet.

When quizzed on which technologies have had the biggest impact on sport viewing, connected devices such as mobile phones/smartphones (16%) and tablets (14%) together made up over 30% of responses, with interactive services cited by a further 16% per cent of respondents.

Significantly, one in five respondents stated that a poor online streaming experience affects their enjoyment of sport viewing, with this figure rising to one in three (33%) in the 18-24 age group.

The report also attempts to divine what change are ahead in sports broadcasting, and predicts these to include more immersive and social experiences, such as stereoscopic 3D televisions, super high-definition (4K) TV, and the overlay of contextual information and social opportunities onto a broadcast.

Among its conclusions, the study highlights a disconnect between growing online consumption patterns and current broadband infrastructure. Level 3 observes that while the Internet was designed for an equal amount of traffic being requested by users and delivered to them, today’s traffic is currently 100:1 downstream to the users.

The CDN provider thus recommends a “philosophical change” in the economics of the internet and the technology behind it: ‘all- you-can-eat’ services may need to be scaled back as companies charge for services and invest in necessary infrastructure.

The report can be downloaded here.

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  • Thanks for your comments Tess, you are quite right to point out the significant difference between penetration of online/multi-screen services, which appears to have reached parity with broadcast TV in the UK during the Olympics, and volume of use.

    I think parity of penetration is a hugely significant milestone though – this is perhaps the first time that penetration of online video services has equalled broadcast anywhere, and deserves celebrating!

    The report’s backer clearly has a vested interest in the conclusions it makes, but I think they may yet prove correct in the long term.

    Will volume of use ever get close to penetration of online/multi-screen services? I would love to hear your thoughts on this.


    Jamie Beach on Online video streams as popular as TV during Olympics

  • I’m afraid, the conclusions here are wrong, and yet again, confuse penetration with volume of use. Of course, people who want to watch the Games will take advantage of the full repertoire of technologies that enable them to do this. Viewing TV via the web is especially helpful for out of home use and when key events happen during the working day. And it’s great for catching-up if you missed something.

    But, overwhelmingly, people are watching the Games live via a broadcast signal, including red button, on their main TV set. The ratio is about 10:1.

    Tess Alps on Online video streams as popular as TV during Olympics

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