SAM research predicts Rio 2016 viewing habits

With the Olympics due to start on Friday (5 August), new research commissioned by media technology leader Snell Advanced Media (SAM) has explored how the British public will watch the Games this Summer, revealing that as many as 35 million UK adults plan to tune into the action from Rio De Janeiro.

Despite BBC director general Lord Hall stating that the corporation is “exploring a phased exit” to its ‘Red Button’ service, SAM’s research has shown that the service will play an important role in how UK Olympic fans will watch the Games this summer. Nearly half (49%) of those planning to watch the Games said they will probably or definitely use the red button service to watch the Olympics. This would represent an increase in use of the service compared to London 2012, with 44% of those that watched the Games four years ago stating they used the red button for at least some of their viewing. SAM’s research was commissioned in conjunction with YouGov and polled 2,077 UK adults.

As the BBC ramps up its coverage of the Games online, only 15% of those watching the Olympics said they would want to watch them on an online streaming site, with nearly two thirds (63%) of Olympic viewers planning to watch the Games live on BBC television channels and 41% on the corporation’s TV highlight programmes. By contrast, only under 1 in 10 (9%) would want to watch them on Netflix and just 1 in 20 (5%) on Amazon Prime were it possible.

The research found that if the option was there, only a quarter (25%) of those planning on watching the Games would watch them on a channel other than the BBC and only 7% would want to watch the Games on a specific paid for Sky Olympics channel like the one currently dedicated to Formula 1.

Neil Maycock, EVP & General Manager, Media Software Solutions at SAM, said: “The Olympics is set to capture the imagination of those watching the Games in the UK and around the world. New technology means consumers have the option to watch memorable sporting moments in numerous ways. Our research serves to highlight that despite the hype surrounding new media platforms, British audiences still place great value on viewing landmark content on more traditional broadcast services.”

In terms of which aspects of the Games are likely to capture the biggest audiences, British viewers say they are more likely to watch the opening ceremony live than any one of the actual sports themselves, with 54% of the Olympic viewing public planning to do so – and 39% wanting to do so in 4K resolution.

The sport which UK viewers think are most important to watch live is expected to be Track and Field (46%), followed by swimming (34%) and gymnastics (28%). The sports that Olympic viewers said they think would be least important to watch live are Handball (2%) and Water Polo (2%).

Comparing these results to a similar study carried out by SAM with YouGov of 1,146 US adults, the American Olympic viewing public said it is most important to watch the Gymnastics live (49%), followed by the Opening Ceremony (46%) and the  Swimming (42%).

Maycock continued: “A large number of British Olympic fans are keen to watch the Games in as higher quality resolution as possible, according to our research.  The BBC has confirmed that its 4K plans for Rio will involve internal experimentation only, and will not feature any consumer-facing content. There is clearly an appetite for these tests to prove successful, so that the technology can be used at other future major televised sporting events, especially where other Western broadcasters such as NBC will be offering selected events in ultra-high definition to their US audience.”

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