More Live-Streaming Events Won't Conflict With Viewers' 'First' Screens

Big live traditional TV programs continue to offer live-streaming.  These include the NCAA Men’s College Basketball tournament, the Super Bowl, the Grammys, and now the Oscars. But the objectives may fool you.

Live-event streaming serves a dual purpose -- as a natural second screen for viewers and advertisers who want an alternative to traditional TV, and as a real-time promotional vehicle. But taking away viewers? Not really.

For the upcoming Oscars, ABC is using the WatchABC app as the platform for its live streaming -- but only in eight markets and only for verified viewers who already have pay TV providers. The Oscars typically get around 40 million viewers.

In comparison, the Super Bowl pulled in more than 111.5 plus million viewers on Fox this year. The live-streaming audience was nearly 530,000 viewers, or about 0.5% of the traditional TV audience.



Right now, live-streaming activity doesn’t seem to affect traditional viewership. Many don’t believe it will have any real effect in the future either. Big programs seem to require a big screen: the consumers’ “first” screen.  That might result in more live airings of traditional TV.

A previous Oscars app offered associated content but not the event itself. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences controls its TV content more than most program owners. For example, it restricts the amount of advertising inventory, and until recently also prohibited commercials from movie studios for their upcoming films.

You can understand the caution. It goes against “common wisdom” but, if history is any guide, not all viewers will flock to the Internet for every bit of their TV entertainment experience.

And consider this: The Oscars still appeal to an older and more female TV crowd. The median age of Oscar viewers is over 51, even though younger consumers -- especially young males -- represent a key piece of movie box office business due to their love of big summer action-adventure-fantasy-comic book blockbuster movies.

One needs to widen one’s thinking about what is a big event when it comes to online. Perhaps the biggest live-streaming event was a video game competition: the Riot Games' League of Legends Season 3 World Championship, which earned a peak viewership of 8.5 million last November.

For sure, live-streaming represents a threat to traditional TV -- but not in the obvious places.

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