Sports & Entertainment

In this age of multi-screens, Big Data, and social, it’s all about viewers and fans. Media companies everywhere are vying for eyes and dollars, creating a content-rich, interactive eco-system. Are you not entertained?

With the average North American spending close to 60 hours a week consuming content (Nielsen, 2014) on smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, and TVs, the demand for sports and entertainment has never been higher. Viewers and fans want high-quality content anytime, anywhere. They are active participants across all mediums and channels. Friends, strangers, and celebrities alike orbit their social media universe. They spend many millions on fantasy sports.1They stream everything. They can be hard to win over, but they can be pinned down thanks to Big Data. Catch them if you can.

Owning the living room

The ongoing disruption of traditional media distribution channels (network television, movie theatres, record labels, etc.) means the battle for viewers has everything to do with owning the living room. In their annual Predictions report, Deloitte reports the combined global sales of smartphones, tablets, PCs, TVs, and gaming consoles will exceed $750B.2 With all these screens and devices populating homes, people’s appetites for content of all kinds (but streaming video especially) and from all sources is seemingly insatiable.

This isn’t to say that people have abandoned the out of home experience, but it’s difficult to pinpoint what, exactly, will get people into theatre and arena seats, particularly with steadily rising prices. Movie theatres have invested in IMAX and 3-D capabilities. They’re also experimenting with loyalty rewards and VIP ticketing that offers premium services like gourmet food and cocktails. Similarly, musicians on tour and festivals are offering tiered tickets. Concert-goers pay a premium price to get a VIP package that might include an exclusive seating area, facetime with performers, and better amenities. Sports arenas and ballparks are looking towards in-seat experiences to buoy attendance.

Whether viewers and spectators realize it, Big Data is increasingly becoming a part of their lives, not only for recommendation purposes but for content creation ones. Content producers are leveraging it to make things that people want to watch and listen to. Streaming services are using data to form listener/viewer profiles and improve their recommendations. For its debut series, Netflix famously ordered two seasons for $100M of House of Cards without looking at a pilot, so confident were they in their data that a David Fincher/Kevin Spacey collaboration would be a hit.3

Multi-screen experience

Mobile has disrupted nearly every major modern industry, but perhaps none more profoundly than sports and entertainment. Television used to be a “gather ‘round” experience, with viewers’ attention focused on one screen. Now, it is a “scatter ‘round” experience, with viewers’ attention being pulled in a variety of directions, often by at least one other screen. In fact, 84% of smartphone and tablet owners say they use their devices as second screens while watching TV (Nielsen, Digital Consumer, February 2014).  And this behaviour is not limited to the young. Eighty percent of viewers 35-64 report engaging with a second screen while watching TV.Certainly viewers are checking email and Facebook, but they’re also looking for and cross-referencing facts on IMDB, live Tweeting reactions to plot twists, and checking their favourite news sources and blogs for commentary.5

Rather than fighting it, smart media companies are capitalizing on this behaviour, offering second-screen content that’s synchronous with first screen content. This space has a lot of room to grow and improve, with only 13% of viewers reporting that second screen content makes their experience more enjoyable and 67% reporting it made the experience somewhat enjoyable (E-Poll Market, 2013).

For sports fans, the second screen is the first screen. Fans are checking stats, looking up information on players, or even checking how their fantasy team is doing. Consider this: although sports comprises a mere 2 -3% of TV programming, it accounts for 50% of Twitter activity around TV.6 Even huge, must-see events like the Super Bowl don’t hold the undivided attention of fans, with 83% of 2014 Super Bowl viewers reporting they used a second screen during the game (Marketing Charts, 2014). As a result, second screen experiences angling for a slice of fans’ attention are springing up by both traditional sports media outlets and startups. Look for the second screen to make the leap to arenas and ballparks. The Barclay’s Center, for example, encourages fans to bring their devices and download their app, giving fans access to live video feeds, ordering food, stats, and much more.

Consumption habits

Much has been made of Millennials’ aversion to paying for media, but Deloitte estimates that Millennials will spend $62B on media in 2015 or roughly $750 per person in North America.7

For many, streaming is the preferred content consumption method for music and video. What was once dismissed and even resisted by the entertainment industry is now being embraced and monetized. For many, owning has become much less important than accessing, as evidenced by the fair amount of cable subscribers who are “cord cutting” their cable subscriptions in favour of broadband-only subscriptions to support significant streaming habits. Consider the following stats compiled by Exinda.8

  • ⅔ of the world’s mobile traffic will be video by 2017
  • Mobile makes up more than 25% of YouTube’s global watch time
  • Netflix accounts for 30% of all U.S. Internet traffic during peak hours

Streaming has also altered the availability of and viewing habits of consumers. Many credit Netflix with the rise of the “binge watching.” Even when it was a DVD-only service, subscribers could order up an entire season of a show for the weekend and emerge, bleary-eyed, from the endeavour. Amidst all the Lost marathons, it became pretty clear that people didn’t want to wait a week for one episode of their favourite shows or have a network dictate their viewing schedule. Netflix has capitalized on this, delivering entire seasons of their shows all at once. The recent rise of Popcorn Time, a “free’ online streaming service, has proven there is significant hunger for this model — people don’t want to wait nearly a year for last season’s TV nor do they want to pay $35 for a “season pass” on iTunes, they want the freedom to watch whenever.

It’s just a matter of time before movies follow. For example, Sony took a two-pronged approach to The Interview, giving it both a theatrical and digital release. Over the past year, several indie films have been simultaneously available for digital rental and in theatres. It’s becoming clear that when given the choice, many people prefer the convenience of watching a film at home. Sure, there are the 3D, IMAX, and blockbuster experiences that will continue to drive movie-lovers to theatres, but overall, ticket sales are in free fall.

This isn’t to say that viewers aren’t still interested in live television, particularly when it comes to event television like season premieres/finales, awards shows, and sports. Netflix’s (50M) subscription numbers suggest that people are willing to pay for content. But between the cord cutters and the Millennials who never signed up for cable subscriptions to begin with, media companies are going to have to think outside of the cable box. While many networks offer streaming capabilities through their apps, viewers will no doubt start demanding a more robust, one-stop solution to live streaming. Dish has recently thrown down a gauntlet with their $20/month Sling service, which offers a limited selection of channels for live streaming. With a price tag more than double that of Netflix, it leaves some to wonder whether users will bite. The hope seems to be that ESPN and ESPN2 will prove major draws, as access to live sports is a primary reason people hang on to overpriced cable packages. Still, the big networks are not among the channels offered, which may scare people off. Comcast offers live streaming through its Xfinity service but only to its current customers and not for all networks. Sony announced it would offer live streams, but there’s been no confirmation of networks. Amazon, too, has ambitions for the live streaming space and has reportedly approached several media conglomerates to do so.9

Social goes wide

Social is not a bolt-on. It’s not a widget sitting at the bottom of a site. It’s not a hashtag. It’s knowing that the social profile permeates all. This has had particular impact on the way people digest and interact with content, turning the once-passive activities of watching a film, game, or show into an immersive multi-channel experience that brings content creators and consumers into a conversation that is by turns expansive and intimate. “Content is king” is not a new idea, but its relevance seems to grow daily. Platforms like Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube, as well as content aggregation sites like Buzzfeed have catapulted bloggers and other content producers into a rarefied place that only a few used to inhabit. People are just as likely to get their news from Facebook or Twitter as they are from news sites.9 “Feed” is an appropriate term not only for the way people have become accustomed to viewing content, but also for the way people interact with that content: consume, digest, repeat several times daily.

In today’s multi-screen world, it’s true that people are more distracted than they used to be. But this isn’t distraction for distraction’s sake. In fact, it’s often an indicator of engagement. Sports events and awards shows are a prime example. The 2014 Oscars, for example, saw Ellen Degeneres “breaking” Twitter with a selfie tweet that was viewed a staggering 32.8M times. During this year’s Super Bowl, 52% of people said that they would be talking about the game and commercials on social media, which translated into 24.9M tweets (Twitter blog, 2014) and Facebook reporting 50M people having over 185M interactions (Facebook blog, 2014). (As the New York Times reported though, the top 100 brands overwhelmingly preferred Twitter, with three times as many real time interactions than the previous year).10

Omni-channel opportunities

Omni-channel has become the modus operandi for retailing but remains a largely untapped opportunity for live, in-person sports and entertainment. As mentioned above, the Barclay’s Center has an app that offers an in-arena experience for fans. Major League Baseball is also taking a swing at omni-channel with their upcoming addition of iBeacon technology to 20 of their stadiums–the largest roll out in the world outside of Apple stores.11

With quicker theatre-to-video times, the convenience of home theatre, and increasing movie prices, movie theatres are at an interesting crossroads. Some are attempting omni-channel solutions, taking advantage of the dead time between arrival and a film’s start to provide interactive experiences to movie-goers. The Cineplex app, for example, offers free wi-fi and pre-film games. Cinemark’s app rewards viewers for not using their smartphones during movies. The AMC Theatres app has an augmented reality feature and rewards program. However, it seems unlikely these things alone will get people into theatres–richer tie-ins with films, multi-tiered experiences, and different pre-show tactics may be in order.

Examples of our work

  • We helped a major sports publisher overhaul their mobile experience for Android. Working closely with their team, we crafted an experience that was properly tailored to the platform and that delivered an amazing user experience to millions of sports fans all over the world.


  1. Goff, Brian. “The $70 billion fantasy football market.” Forbes. 20 Aug, 2013.
  2. Deloitte. “Technology, Media, and Telecommunications Predictions 2014.”, 2014.
  3. Sweney, Mark. “Netflix Gathers Detailed Viewer Data to Guide Its Search for the Next Hit.” The Guardian, 23 Feb, 2014.
  4. Perez, Sarah.“Nielsen: 85 Percent of Tablet and Smartphone Owners Use Devices as a ’Second Screen’ Monthly, 40 Percent Do So Daily.” Tech Crunch, 5 Dec, 2012.
  5. Nielsen.“Action Figures: How Second Screens Are Transforming TV Viewing.” Nielsen Newswire, 17 June, 2013.
  6. Goel, Vindu. “Social Networks in a Battle for the Second Screen.” The New York Times, 2 Oct, 2013.
  7. Chmielewski, Dawn. “Deloitte Says Millennials Will Spend $62 Billion on Media in 2015.” re/code. January 17, 2015.
  8. Williams, Marilyn. “Report: Amazon Considering Live TV Streaming Service.” 21 Jan, 2014.
  9. Foz, Zoe. “How Much Social Traffic Does Mainstream Media Receive?” Mashable, 1 Aug, 2013.
  10. Goel, Vindu. “The Other Super Bowl Contest: Twitter vs. Facebook.” The New York Times, 3 Feb, 2014.
  11. Golson, Jordan. “Major League Baseball Rolling Out Thousands of iBeacons for Opening Day.” 30 Jan, 2014.