Hot on the heels of one of the world’s most-watched sporting events—the Super Bowl—comes the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. While multivenue, multievent contests such as the Olympics were once considered to be “appointment television,” today’s social media networks, online news updates, and—quite especially—mobile digital video make that concept seem as old as wooden skis. Sports viewing is clearly fueling video growth across all screens.

It’s been 18 months since the London Olympic Summer Games, and consumers are watching content on more device types and platforms than ever before. This year, starting with the Sochi Winter Games, viewers are going to capitalize on these opportunities, accessing the contests via gaming consoles, Roku, tablets, phones, smart TVs, and, perhaps in the future, Google Glass.

To find out more about this trend, Adobe Digital Index analyzed 22.5 billion online video starts and 574 million authenticated streams (TV Everywhere) and asked 400 U.S. sports viewers about their new viewing habits. The result is the Q4 Digital Video Benchmark Report, which provides a full picture of all the digital access points for online video. The trends outlined in this report clearly demonstrate that sports viewing is the engine behind digital video growth and, because 2014 will have several multi-event contests, ADI expects digital video consumption to grow 5 to 10x year-over-year (YoY).

Gaming Consoles, Android Take The Podium

Sporting events such as the Olympics, the World Cup, or “March Madness” offer too many matches to fit into traditional broadcast schedules. In the past, of course, viewers were limited by the programming schedule and what was shown during prime time, as broadcasters viciously edited content, leaving most of it on the cutting-room floor.

Today, however, media companies can deliver live and on-demand content online and monetize it with dynamically inserted ads. ADI data indicates that nearly half of all of these TV Everywhere (TVE) streams are running on Apple devices, and the number of Android devices accessing TVE content has doubled. The use of gaming consoles for TVE content, however, is growing the fastest up 3x YoY (from 1% to 3%) Sports streaming accounts for nearly 40% of TVE viewing.


A look at unrestricted online viewing — which is any online video start not requiring a pay-TV subscription or authentication (non-TVE content)– indicates that more than 1 in 5 videos are accessed from a mobile device. Gaming console viewing is growing the fastest in this category with an increase of 365% YoY. New consoles, such as the PS4 and Xbox One, flew off the shelves during the holidays and according to Reuters, retailers of video games reported an 83% rise in total sales during the holiday. With so many more consoles in the home, TVE content viewing is expected to more than double this year.

Google Glass Use Grows 8x In Past Five Months

According to USA Today, sales of wearable devices are up nearly 2000%, largely driven by the fitness category. Eyewear tech, such as Google Glass, shows very small penetration (<1%) at this point, but Google Glass use, in particular, is the fastest-growing Web access device, up eight times in just the past five months. By culling data from trillions of visits, ADI has identified that Google Glass looks to be heading for use as a future media-consumption device rather than as a shopping device. In fact, Web sites seeing the highest penetration of Google Glass visits are media and entertainment with sports being the most popular content in this category.

Glass viewership

Within media and entertainment, users are mainly using them to watch online video and, in particular, sporting events.

Glass viewership M&E

As devices such as Google Glass grow their sales, they will have an impact on online video viewing.  Broadcasters will bring TVE to these devices and create new cross-broadcast, augmented reality ad formats. It’s not impossible to imagine that by the 2016 Rio Olympics, your office mates will be walking around wearing a device watching streaming video while you think they are working.

Smartphone: The Comeback Kid

Throughout 2012, ADI watched the use of tablets speed ahead, as the screen size, data speed of WiFi, and high-quality media-viewing applications drove them into the lead in devices used to access a video. Smartphones were not to be denied, however, and use of these to watch video retook the lead during 2013—with stunning YoY growth of 86% versus tablet’s 23%, when it came to unrestricted online video consumption.

Mobile Growth & video

TVE saw a similar pattern, but tablets are the primary mobile device used (42%), up 110% YoY.

TVE device type

With the large number of smartphones in use and the trends in 2013 toward larger screen sizes and faster mobile data connections, phones appear to be driving much more mobile viewership, especially for sports clips.

Sports Viewing Up 7x YoY

The breakdown of online video by category over the year demonstrates the impact of sports video on the marketplace: With 640% growth YoY, sports viewing is fueling the growth of watching videos online. In comparison, streaming of all video content grew 440% YoY. The trend line also demonstrates a clear dip across all types of content in the summer months, when less new content is available.

viewing growth

Key Takeaways

In sum, ADI’s research suggests that:

• Smartphones overtook tablets for online video streaming in Dec 2012, and usage is up 86% YoY.

• With the introduction of Xbox One and PS4, online video streaming from gaming consoles is on the rise, up 365% YoY.

• Sports video streaming is up 640% YoY.

• More than one-fourth of video streams on large annual and biannual sporting events comes from mobile devices.

• The majority of TVE content is viewed on mobile devices, with tablets producing the most, at 42%.

• 37% of TVE content streams are for sporting events.