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Adaptation Key for Capitalising on Olympics’ Younger Audience


As Olympic coverage reacts to shifting consumption habits in millennials, digital publishers need to follow suit.

By: Oliver Hopkins

For decades there has been an unwavering belief the Olympic Games provide unmissable TV.

Staggeringly, seven out of the eight most-watched broadcast events of all time have been Olympic broadcasts, with only the 2018 FIFA World Cup breaking up the Olympics’ dominance. Indeed, up until the 2016 Rio Olympics, television viewing figures continued to climb competition after competition. Nothing, it seemed, could break linear TV’s growing share of audience attention.

A Crack in the Armour

However, Rio 2016 was the first Olympics that raised questions over the conventional wisdom that live sports were invulnerable from shifting trends in linear TV viewing habits. While traditional broadcast remained the dominant format for watching the action, Rio 2016 was the first Olympics in which broadcasters suffered from declining viewership.

As The Wall Street Journal reported, NBC, the U.S. national broadcaster, averaged nearly 28 million viewers for each of the first nine nights of Rio broadcasts. While a stunning number in isolation, this figure was 15.5% down from viewership in 2012, and even farther behind the average from the 2008 Summer Games.

Industry analysts were quick to identify the culprits – it was millennials who had started to switch off the TV. NBC viewing figures supported this: Their 18-to-34 audience declined by 30% over Rio 2016. For a global event whose main stars are peak millennial age, it seemed their athletic exploits were not resonating with their generational peers.

Wider demographic studies confirmed the issue. During the past few Olympic Games, the age brackets with the biggest viewer penetration were 55-64 and 65-74. Declining millennial interest is only moving that share higher.

Changes in Media Consumption Habits

These trends have shown that even a household institution like the Olympics isn’t immune to changing media consumption habits and the abundance of entertainment choices viewers have beyond television. Audiences in general – but particularly young audiences – are moving away from traditional linear TV, instead ‘snacking’ on short pieces of video content through streaming and social platforms. The high social media use among younger millennials especially, has resulted in broadcasters battling for attention with the high-volume content present on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok.

The IOC’s Response

On the eve of Rio 2016, in an impressive show of foresight, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) approved five new sports for the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo: skateboarding, surfing, sports climbing, karate and a joint baseball/softball bid.

The inclusion of these new Olympic sports, and the likely introduction of breakdancing at Paris 2024, is part of an IOC bid to attract a younger audience. At the committee meeting, IOC President Thomas Bach said

“We want to take sport to the youth. With the many options that young people have, we cannot expect any more that they will come automatically to us. We have to go to them.”

This was a clear admittance that the IOC’s strategy needed a fundamental shake-up to keep Olympic interest burning in the next generation.

Brazilian skateboarder Rayssa Leal competes in the Street League Skateboarding world championship women’s final in Sao Paulo. The championship qualifies for the Tokyo 2021 Olympics where Skateboarding will feature for the first time as an event.

In addition to the inclusion of new events, the IOC has ramped up its production of content across digital platforms. At the next Olympic instalment after Rio, the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, the IOC reported that the amount of content available on digital platforms was expected to be close to double that which is aired on TV.

This shift in production is no coincidence. As well as the move away from linear TV, the Los Angeles Times reported that the viewers who stream online content are far younger than TV audiences. In the report, NBC claimed that 76% of the online viewers for PyeongChang were between the ages of 18 to 49, up from 61% for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio.

Digital Content is King

Digital media companies are among the chief beneficiaries of this shift in audience consumption habits. Those publishers who focus on creating interactive and engaging site experiences through delivering high-quality video and editorial content are primed to generate increased advertising revenue from additional web traffic, particularly around an event as universal as the Olympics.

Assisting in this endeavour, Stats Perform’s video feed provides digital publishers with fully produced Olympic video content for consumption across digital and social. Containing highlights, breaking news stories, behind-the-scenes footage and the best viral clips, the content is delivered in multi-language video formats optimised for digital platforms, which makes them perfect for engaging audiences eager for Olympic content.

It’s not just video content that will be in high demand. Raquel Rozados, the IOC’s Olympic Broadcaster Services’ director, said in 2019 that:

“The future of content delivery is multi-media, multi-platform, personalised, mobile and social.”

Stats Perform Widgets can enable digital publishers to bring data to life on their platforms, ensuring their digital offering is as complete and informational as possible.  Widgets add crucial detail to a sites’ sports content offering and can be used to power new content that can be monetised through advertising and sponsorship.

Stats Perform’s traffic-generating editorial news service provides publishers with fast, incisive and multi-language editorial content. Collected by expert journalists on the ground, this content provides fantastic additional display advertising revenue opportunities.

Engaging Audiences on Social Media

It’s not just on webpages where battles can be won. Social media has now become synonymous with watching live sport, acting as a perfect facilitator for engaged audiences to join the sporting conversation. Twitter has become the most popular platform that users flock to when the action is ongoing, and the platform itself reports that it sees a 4% increase in unique visitors during sporting events across the world.

To help brands capitalise on the rise of social media’s involvement in sport, Stats Perform has built Opta Graphics, a fully integrated, customisable platform that enables clients to build stunning social graphics at scale. Powered by deep, live data, the tool allows users to stay relevant in the ever-changing social conversation by creating highly visual outputs in multiple languages with a look and feel that matches the properties’ brand.

Stats Perform’s Olympic Content Offering

Stats Perform produced record-breaking numbers at Rio 2016. Capturing the unmissable moments from the Summer Games, the team produced over 700 written articles and over 550 video clips over the competition. In addition to press conference coverage, the team secured exclusive interviews with the biggest stars from the Athlete’s Village, providing digital publishers with unique, one-on-one content. At Tokyo 2021, Stats Perform will once again have a team of journalists on the ground during the event, allowing the instant capture and distribution of live and near-live content for immediate delivery to our partners. This is crucial for those looking to capitalise on an audience’s new and varied demands for content.

Powered by the official Olympics data feed, Stats Perform will also be providing powerful customisable widgets that enable clients to create engaging digital experiences that grow their online audiences. These widgets will cover live results as they happen, the latest medal standings and an upcoming schedule of events.

Click here to find out more about Stats Perform’s coverage of Tokyo 2021.