It has been reported that Premier League audiences across television have dropped 11% in 2016 and are down a significant 22% since 2011, but is this an entirely accurate reflection of the consumption of the Premier League and sports content?

Undoubtedly, there is a growing concern among broadcasters and rights holders about the decline in linear TV viewership. This drop in Premier League viewing this year has seen Sky's average audience fall 13%, combined with the Q4 2016 fall in ESPN subscribers and the drop off in NFL viewers (24% drop in Monday Night Football ratings) for the 2016 regular season.

Video consumption has changed with the migration of viewers.

One of the factors contributing to the decline in linear TV viewership is the shift of audiences away from their television and onto mobile screens, particularly amongst the 16-25 age group.  With mobile video expected to account for 80% of all web traffic in 2019, there is an increased demand for soccer teams and rights holders to produce more short-form, near-live video content.

To highlight this, the most watched game of the 2016 Premier League season saw 2.8m people (average viewership) tune into Sky Sports to watch Manchester United v Liverpool. In contrast, a 30-second video shared by West Ham of striker Andy Carroll scoring a spectacular overhead kick has generated 6.8 million views in just under 14 days – showing that despite the shift away from television there is still high demand for Premier League video content, it's just this demand is moving away from traditional sources.

Grabyo has seen the number of clips produced by partners increase by 1746% from 2014 to 2016. The always on, viral nature of social video drives viewership and engagement, and as a result more rights holders and broadcasters are working together to find new avenues of distribution through social media.

Sports TV and live social video.

Distributing video to social media is now the most effective way for publishers to increase the reach and viewership of content, but with the proliferation of social video at an all-time high, the need to deliver live content is now greater than ever before – those publishers which are going live are seeing three times as much engagement as VOD.

The NBA and its UK broadcast partner BT Sport streamed the recent NBA Global Game match between the Indiana Pacers and Denver Nuggets to Facebook Live free to all viewers; this was the first time a basketball match has been broadcast to Facebook in the UK. The game was also broadcast on the NBA UK Facebook page and free to air television channel BT Sport Showcase. This was the latest in a string of firsts for live social video continuing from 2016.

How has this affected advertisers?

One of the bigger questions around this change in TV audience is how does it affect traditional sponsorship and advertisement? It is evident the migration to social will change the way in which sponsors and brands advertise and value inventory across sports media properties, and with fewer eyeballs on traditional TV broadcasts driving up CPM, there represents a real opportunity for forward-thinking advertisers to capitalize on digital-first content.  

Gillette, partnering with The Sun newspapers, used content from the FA Cup to create a real-time branded content ‘precision play’ advertising campaign. The video featured a unique look at Sergio Aguero’s goal against West Ham breaking certain parts of the video down to fit with Gillette’s precision messaging. The video has gone on to be viewed 2 million times with over 2,000 shares – an excellent example of brands exploiting the extended viewership and virality of social video.

With the upcoming addition of mid-roll advertising to Facebook videos, presenting new opportunities for broadcasters, rights holders and publishers to monetize social video content, the opportunity to utilize the reach and engagement of social platforms to offset the decline in linear TV is attractive. What remains to be seen is whether digital can generate the same level of revenues.

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