Sports and The Second Screen

By: Richard Henderson | June 8, 2017

According to eMarketer, in 2014, only 51 percent of respondents used their smartphone at the same time as watching TV. By 2017, that number rose to 74 percent, and if tablets are included in the tally, more than 88 percent of US adults will use a mobile device while watching TV at least once a month this year.

As the trend of second screen multitasking has accelerated, media and advertisers alike have taken notice of the opportunity. Like any consumption shift, research has raised questions around whether the second screen could actually distract from engagement on each device.

On the contrary, research released in November 2016 from Ericsson showed a 25 percent increase in multichannel engagement since 2014, including a specific rise in online discussion and mobile surfing relating to the content being watched. Content format also contributes to engagement levels – live television may inspire more content multitasking than streamed content or time-shifted TV, according to a separate study from TiVo in 2015.

Sporting events represent the apex of unrehearsed, live television, and academic research arising from University of Texas supports the hypothesis that second screen use particularly enhances engagement for sports programming. The study confirmed prior research on the general influence of engagement across technology mediums, with fresh evidence of added engagement rather than distraction when it comes to sports. The low degree of overlap between capabilities of the second screen and the first screen (TV) means the two media’s diverse functions complement each other and coexist during the viewing experience – not compete for attention.

The rise of second screens does not pose a threat to first screen media – in fact, it’s an opportunity to pioneer complementary content and campaigns.”

The second screen phenomenon is probably not sport specific, either – the University of Texas study could not find a significant relationship between the type of sport watched and the level of second screen activities. Instead, user experience was a bigger factor in multi-channel engagement. If new devices and applications are difficult to use or don’t synchronize properly with the live event, content providers will not be able to maintain and grow their audiences.

At STATS, we’re already helping media, teams and leagues achieve amazing user experiences, whether in traditional media, through search engines, with voice-activated assistants or via social networks like what we’re doing with Snapchat LiveScore geofilters. But we’re also looking ahead to the next era of personalization. We are gearing up with deep learning and data science to prepare for the next frontier of fan engagement, whether that means creating interaction between personal devices and stadium signage, customized in-game advertising or delivering next-generation statistics to fans on their second – and soon, maybe even third and fourth – screens .