Sports…And How They Feed the Needy, Greedy Second Screen Beast.

By Matt Smith, Chief Evangelist, Anvato




As the above headline suggests, near-real time video clips and TV Everywhere experiences have become the 800-pound great white shark that Captain Quint hunted in the classic movie, Jaws.  Constantly moving, constantly feeding and constantly growing.  I don’t think it should come as any surprise to this readership that second screen viewing experiences – by all units of measure – are growing at an exponential rate.  Whether viewers connect via a mobile or Smart TV app supplied by their television service provider, or directly access content on a network’s website, it is becoming increasingly easier to access our favorite programming on our nearest device. I believe programmers are embracing a growing group of viewers who are accustomed to consuming media in drastically different ways than before – the audience whose primary screen is the aforementioned “second screen.” Call it TV Everywhere, call it what you like, but this shift in consumption patterns also means that social syndication and enabling viewers to share video clips are minimum table stakes. And this shift is also impacting other aspects of the television business, including content licensing.

Like breaking news, live sports events only happen once. And from a production and delivery standpoint, there is no second chance, no rewind button.  Consequently, live video tends to be the most perishable content that we have, and it drives the most viewership across both traditional and secondary screens. The clips these events generate are also changing consumption habits to include social elements. The traffic data confirms these hypotheses. For this year’s FIFA World Cup, ESPN’s live streams logged 30 million viewing hours during the event. This was enough to make the tournament the most-streamed live sporting event in the United States ever, surpassing the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Soccer not your sport?  Then check out the 2014 MLB All Star Game, which was live streamed free for the first time in the event’s history.   According to some 800,000 viewers consumed live streams of the Home Run Derby alone.  To be clear, some of these events are viewed when authenticated via a service provider, but for a league to embrace the free viewing model is a significant milestone in search of, and support for, that emerging segment of the audience I mentioned earlier.

These events and the content they enable appear to be disrupting some existing viewing modes.  Check your Twitter or Facebook feed.  Seen a sports highlight pop up there lately?  Odds are that you have.  Clips from live games are being seen in social feeds well in advance of ESPN or other traditional outlets.  Seeing these clips as a game progresses is likely complimentary to the existing ESPN viewer, but what does this mean for the Gen Y/Z or Generation Alpha viewer?  Their primary source for this content is social media.  Will ESPN ever play a role in their lives when it comes to sports highlights, news and information – especially clips from games in progress?  It seems like this group may only ever interact with this content via social means, never watching a single SportsCenter show.   Meanwhile, broadcasters and content providers are also getting in on the social game, with Twitter hashtags and social interaction on the rise within programming. Will this change the impact of those channels or their viability to a different generation?  Could these trends change licensing models and lead to new licensing categories?  Perhaps. For broadcasters (and potentially for service providers), this could mean a future where rights for programming are carved out separately for over-the-air and DBS/cable, while internet distribution is negotiated separately.

Independent of the licensing questions, these patterns represent growing trends that appear poised to reset standards. The challenge for those who help provide the underlying technology is to keep up with demand and plan for scale and efficiency. However, there is good news – technologies based on hybrid cloud and software-based TV Everywhere are making it simpler for broadcasters to scale both live and on-demand services and support the growing consumer appetite for anytime, anywhere video. To quote Chief Brody from the classic film Jaws, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat,” to satisfy the hunger of the second screen beast.
Matt Smith is Chief Evangelist for Anvato which offers a turnkey TV Everywhere platform for broadcasters and content providers. Prior to joining Anvato, Smith was Vice President, Technology for Chideo; Vice President, Internet Television at Envivio; Architect at Cisco Systems; and Vice President and Chief Systems Architect at Inlet Technologies. Smith served as a key video architect and evangelist for Yahoo!, and spent several years at NBC.

The Cynsiders column is a platform for industry leaders to reach out to their colleagues followers and the public at large.  In their own words, they address breaking news, issues of the day, and the larger changes going on in the ever-evolving world of television, video and digital.  Unique to cynopsis, Cynsiders lives on the homepage and is promoted across the daily newsletters. We welcome readers’ comments, queries, and column ideas at

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