In Autumn 2016, the campaign to have Budapest host the 2024 Olympics commissioned a report from SportBusiness looking at what the future holds for the Olympic Games, with particular reference to the changing habits and attitudes of young people. Since then, Budapest dropped out of the Olympic bidding race, but the Budapest team chose to press ahead with the report, as a legacy for the campaign. The report is now published, and is being distributed with the April 2017 edition of SportBusiness International, as well as being available for free download here.
The Future of Olympic Games Media Consumption is based on nationally-representative surveys of 13 global markets. We asked respondents questions on their broad feelings about the Olympics, what media they used to consume the 2014 Olympics, their thoughts on social media coverage of the Olympics, and their expectations for the impact of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality on their sports consumption habits. In the report, we analyse the results of the survey, with input from a panel of sport and media industry experts.
To get a flavour for the report contents, here is the executive summary:
The Olympic Games has long been at the forefront of developments in sports media technology, delivering ever-improving experiences on existing mainstream media while also embracing emerging platforms.
Technological advances provide the means to engage with consumers through platforms and content which are relevant to them, delivering enhancements to traditional broadcasting and bringing in a plethora of new media experiences, a combination that has appeal for both passive and interactive users.
Enhanced and new technologies provide opportunities to reach younger generations with content-rich experiences on the platforms they use. At the same time, emerging technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and headset-based augmented reality (AR) have the potential to offer more immersive and connected experiences within the Olympic context.
This report details the global Olympic fan base and media consumption of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, and assesses the potential for the future through enhanced existing platforms and new, developing technologies. Incorporated are the conclusions of surveys across 13 markets, together with analysis and insight from six sports and media industry experts.
Interest levels in the Olympics among young and old
Engagement with younger age groups is core to sustaining the future fan base and consumption of the Games. This report splits out survey results for the 18-24-year-olds and the overall 18+ population.
The Olympic Games is in robust health, with substantial levels of interest across the world. Over half the adult population in all 13 markets are 'interested', 'very interested' or 'passionately interested' in the Olympic Games.
Similarly, over 50 per cent of the 18-24 age group are 'interested', 'very interested' or 'passionately interested' in the Olympic Games in 12 of the 13 markets.
There is also mass agreement among both the adult population and 18-24-year-olds that the Olympics is one of the world’s most exciting sports events and that Olympic athletes are 'inspirational'.
On average, three-quarters of 18-24-year-olds who have any interest in the Olympics and followed the Rio 2016 on any media platform across the 13 countries agreed that the Olympic Games is one of the world’s most exciting sports events. The 18-24 age group outscored the total population in five countries (Australia, Great Britain, Italy, Japan and the US). Similarly, on average, 75 per cent of 18-24-year-olds who have any interest in the Olympics and followed the Rio 2016 on any media platform find Olympic athletes inspirational, compared to an average of 74 per cent of the adult population across the 13 countries.
What media people use to follow the Olympics
While conventional TV dominated media consumption of Rio 2016, there was also widespread use of smartphones to follow the Games, particularly by the young. Use of smartphones to consume Rio 2016 coverage was substantially higher among 18-24-year-olds than the overall adult population in 12 of the 13 countries. On average, 43 per cent of the 18-24 age group in the 13 markets followed Rio 2016 on smartphones, compared to 30 per cent of the overall 18+ population.
TV coverage of Rio 2016 was widely regarded as interesting and compelling across the world. On average 75 per cent of the adult population who have any interest in the Olympics and followed the Rio 2016 on any media platform of the 13 markets ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ with the statement, with the lowest level of approval in Germany at 62 per cent. Digital and social media coverage of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games was also highly regarded, albeit at a lower level than TV coverage in general, with an average of 59 per cent of the adults who have any interest in the Olympics and followed the Rio 2016 on any media platform across the 13 markets finding it interesting.
The Olympic viewing experience continues to be enhanced by upgrades in broadcast technology, such as ultra HD, while live streaming will enable a wide range of enhanced digital services to be available. This will have a natural appeal to the more technology-hungry younger demographic, who are also used to and desire an interactive lean-forward experience, rather than passive viewing. Similarly, the use of second screens synchronised to the action as it happens on the main TV broadcast (i.e. with no time delay) will allow viewers to access a range of services.
These technologies have a natural fit with the Olympics, given the large amount of simultaneous content available, allowing more choice of viewing and data within events, alerts on and instant access to other events of interest to the viewer, and a range of other services.
Olympics social media consumption
Social media is firmly established as part of Olympic media consumption, garnering widespread use across the world. The format is inherently attractive, as it is delivered via devices which are always with the user and via platforms which are already extensively used, in particular by younger age groups.
Of the social media platforms used by both the general adult population and by 18-24-year-olds following the Rio 2016 Games on any media platform, Facebook was the most used in 11 and 10 countries respectively. In general, use of social media sites by the 18-24 age group was substantially higher than for the general adult population. For example, Facebook was used more by the young than adults to follow Rio 2016 in 11 of the markets and by a differential of over 10 percentage points in nine countries.
In seven markets the official Olympic Games broadcaster was the most-enjoyed category provider of Rio 2016 social media content for adults using social media to follow the Games. In contrast, 18-24-year-old social media users have a greater affinity with the athlete social media accounts than the general adult population. Athlete accounts were the most-enjoyed or joint most enjoyed content by 18-24-year-olds in seven countries.
Expectations for VR and AR sports media coverage
While there is widespread interest in using both virtual reality and augmented reality to watch the Olympics, there is also considerable negativity among the public to wearing the goggles or glasses required to do so. Fifty per cent or more of the adult population in eight countries agreed or strongly agreed that they would like to use both VR and AR to watch the Olympics.
The level of interest in both VR and AR generally outweighs the negativity towards the headsets, but a higher proportion of the adult population rejects the idea of wearing VR and AR devices, regardless of the benefits, in four (VR) and five (AR) countries respectively.
There is more interest in using VR to watch the Olympics than AR across the world. VR attracts more interest than AR in both the adult population and in 18-24-year-olds in 12 and 11 of the markets respectively, and has equal interest in the others.
Central to the success of VR and AR will be delivering a sufficiently improved and unique experience to offset the feeling of discomfort and social isolation engendered by wearing the headsets. At the same time, the technologies will have to compete against an exceptionally high quality, established and well-regarded 2D TV Olympic sport experience, which itself is being enhanced by the advent of improved technologies, such as ultra HD, supported by user-friendly interactive digital and second screen services.