How Big Is Your Screen…

Let’s start by defining what I mean by ‘big screen’ and why it’s important to me in this phase of the digital media evolution.

There are many ways of categorizing the devices we use to consume sports and entertainment content. At least in the case of video-based consumption, there are three main camps — desktop, mobile (both smartphones and tablets) and TV-based devices.

This last device exists on a spectrum. TV isn’t “just one thing”. It can encompass:

  • Smart TVs provided by the likes of Samsung, LG, and Sony, where the TV set itself contains the technology to enable online watching without a third-party device.

If you follow our friends over at Conviva, you’ll see that video consumption on these devices has exploded in the last 12 months. It accounted for 75% of all viewing time in Q4 2020. Smart TVs saw the largest growth, recording a 156% year-on-year increase in viewing hours.

This matches the data we’re tracking across our platforms here at Deltatre. In our report ‘A new digital decade’, we revealed that 40% of US sport fans identified Smart TV as their preferred device for watching live games.

Another trend I have observed both from market reports and my own experience is the huge gap in how long a viewing session is on a big screen device when compared to desktop and mobile. Analyzing data from our sports OTT platforms, we see average daily viewing time going beyond three hours on big screen devices — a remarkable figure indeed.

Takeaway

There are many reasons for the impressive growth of ‘big screen’ viewing — wider availability and accessibility of devices, a simpler and better performing user interface, the wider availability of content and apps, and more.

You must also consider the effect of the pandemic on users’ habits in media consumption. More time spent at home with the biggest screen available would naturally contribute to the growth seen above.

A lot of the changes in viewing consumption that we’ve witnessed over the last year will stay. Even when the pandemic is over, I expect people will keep choosing the biggest screen available, whenever possible. If we look at data from Comscore’s Connected Home Report, Smart TVs were the device type with the highest increase in terms of in-home data usage between June and December 2020.

I also believe this behavior is much more relevant for live sports than other content formats. Live sport is obviously appointment-based, and the bigger the occasion, the higher the probability that people will want to watch on a big screen. In fact, 71% of sports fans surveyed for our ‘Where the Money is Going’ report stated they crave ‘deeper immersion’ when watching live games — and there’s no better way to achieve this than watching something in 4K-quality on the biggest screen in the house.

This presents an exciting opportunity for us as an industry to continue evolving the product experience on the big screen to reflect these changes. But there are two points to consider.

First, what works on mobile and desktop does not always work on the big screen. It’s natural for media organizations to prioritize investment into small screen when trying to target Gen-Z, who reportedly spend up to 5.9 hours per day consuming content on their phones. But in order to benefit from the shifting sands around ‘big screen’ viewing, it’s vital to consider native TV experiences from the start of any new strategic OTT initiative.

Another issue is the current fragmentation of the device market. It is costly and resource-intensive to design and develop for potentially hundreds of platforms in a sustainable way, especially considering the complications that arise in building for multiple App Stores. That’s why seeking out OTT products like AXIS, with pre-built reference apps across all major devices, can help operators get up and running quickly.

This article originally appeared on the Deltatre newsletter “The Line-up”:

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@CDM / Chief Evangelist @deltatre