NBC looks to OTT sports content to help bring Tokyo Summer Games to younger viewers

OTT sports content Tokyo Olympics
Twitter will be streaming more live content from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

2020 is going to be a huge year for OTT sports content, and that’ll be especially true for the Olympics where – in the US – NBCUniversal will be pulling out all the stops.

The Comcast property also will stream a big piece of the games across NBC Sports digital platforms as well as looking outside the fold to expand viewing online for the 2020 Game in Tokyo. It this week announced it planned to partner with Snapchat to produce custom content from the Summer Games for Snapchat users — as it did during the 2016 Rio Summer Games and 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

“We know the audience on Snap loves the Olympic Games,” Gary Zenkel, president of NBC Olympics, said. “We’re excited to take the partnership to another level and produce even more content and coverage from the Tokyo Olympics.”

Taking OTT sports content to younger viewers

NBC said it saw a huge increase in viewers between those two events, reaching 40 4users in the US during the Winter Olympics. And, a big bonus, 95% were younger viewers, an increasingly tough demo to reach with sports content delivered traditionally. NBCU says it plans to offer 3X the Snapchat content – more than 70 episodes – this year than it did during the PyeongChang Winter Games two years ago.

Chasing Gold, which made its debut in 2018, will be back for the Tokyo Games, following US athletes as they compete. An additional unscripted collection of stories will recap the biggest moments of the Games.

Snapchat says it sees more than 210 million users daily.

In addition to Snapchat, NBC also plans to continue – and expand – its partnership with Twitter, streaming some live coverage as well as highlights and shoulder content.

OTT sports content a new frontier?

For years, since the streaming revolution began, pay-TV operators have taken some solace in the concept that sports would be their final redoubt. It was the content they could retreat behind to maintain their walled gardens because streaming sports can be difficult. Latency has been seen as a major problem, with streamed games sometimes minutes behind those delivered by cable or broadcast.

But, increasingly, just as we’ve seen in streaming live news and entertainment content, most consumers have decided that quality of the delivery is more important than its timing.

Almost all major sports leagues and associations in the US – and an increasing number globally – are streaming content, and more often, games.

At a glance:

  • Cricket in India has been a huge success online, with both the Indian Premier League and cricket’s World Cup drawing massive online audiences;
  • The NFL is rumored to be actively considering a full-time streaming partner for rights to its premier games, expanding on its existing Thursday Night Football deal with Amazon;
  • German pay-TV provider Sky Deutschland is offering a low-priced sports package on its streaming service Sky Ticket for €9.99 per month that includes live highlights of Bundesliga, 2nd division Bundesliga and the UEFA Champions League;
  • Spain’s La Liga, the organizing body for the country’s two top-flight club football tiers, last year became the first major European league to launch its own OTT service; and,
  •  DAZN and ESPN+ are streaming hundreds of live events each month.

Brightcove’s Q3 2019 Global Video Index (you can download it here), found a surge in global sports streaming, too.

Connected TV saw an increase in views of more than 319% over Q3 2018, after an 82% increase in Q2. Smartphone views were up 49% in Q3 and 22% in Q2. Tablets saw a 31% and 41% in Q3 and Q2 respectively. The number of streaming sports views on computers were down 17% in Q3 after a 5% slide in Q2.

The bottom line…

There’s no mystery to sports increasing willingness to choose streaming as a dance partner: Major sports continue to experience a crisis as younger fans – unwilling to engage with pay-TV, advertising averse and uninterested in sports events that take up the better part of an afternoon or evening – look elsewhere for entertainment.

To fight back, Major League Baseball, for example, is redesigning its ballparks to include social areas that focus on food and entertainment other than the game to increase Millennial engagement. NASCAR has trimmed the size of its racetrack grandstands to make them look fuller on TV. And all major sports are looking for ways to trim the amount of time it takes to get a game in… just look at pro football’s nascent XFL, which will play with a running clock.

And, everywhere, sports ventures are going over the top. They have to… it’s where the audience is going.

Sports will be a catalyzing force for streaming in 2020 as leagues, organizations, teams and even individuals at all level recognize that migration of viewers from traditional to OTT screens.

Stay tuned.

 Jim O’Neill is Principal Analyst at Brightcove. You can follow him on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn