Another weekend, another bunch of big games. And it might be true that nowhere is the impact digital media and viewing via mobile device more striking than with the NFL.
The combination of ease-of-use and maniacal need-to-know has resulted in some stunning stats for the brand new NFL Now, which apparently is far more successful as a smartphone tool than anticipated.
At a recent Streaming Media West conference, The Diffusion Group’s Joel Espelien raved over stats he heard from Cory Mummery, the vice president and GM of the new NFL Now. Espelien wrote the figures “were a bit shocking (to me at least).”
Well, make that two.
In its first season in operation, viewership of NFL Now via smartphone already represents 49% of all unique visits to the site, Mummery told the conference, and despite the fact most of the stuff on NFL Now is highlight-sized short, those mobile visits constitute 21% of all viewing minutes.
And Espelien writes, “PC video viewing is dropping like a rock, NFL’s data for the new service showed 25% of visits coming from PCs, representing 20% of the video minutes. Just 3 years ago that number would likely have been 90%. Now some of this difference may be due to the specific demographics of NFL Now viewers (i.e. young males) and their particular device preferences, but this is still a dramatic shift away from PC viewing in a very short period of time.”
The big news in online video, reported a million times, is happening with small screen use, where the NFL is finding success, and the OTT, where Espelien is particularly blown away. NFL Now is available via Xbox devices, Apple TV, Roku 3 and Amazon Fire TV, and just through those devices they constitute 19% of NFL Now's video visits and 52% of all viewing minutes.
“For me (and I forecast the future of TV for a living) that last number is absolutely stunning and has me thinking that consumer movement between devices is more seamless (and less sticky) than we previously thought,” Espelien writes.
It seems to me the NFL has lots of reasons to lead the pack. For one, it’s been a victim of very good HDTV sets and extreme coverage (because networks pay so much for rights) so that going to games, to some, has become pointless.
And we get lonely for our stuff.
“Twenty years ago, the fan that went to the stadium didn’t have a smartphone. He or she wasn’t thinking about multitasking and communicating with friends,” the NFL’s CFO Eric Grubman told Fox Sports this summer. “The new fan of today, this is the only 3-1/2-hour window in their lives when they’re not connected to an incredibly important part of their life.
“It’s the perfect match in a stadium to increase the connectivity and let them do the things on their social network that they want to do around football whether that’s fantasy (leagues), stats, texting, sending a picture, Facebook or Twitter.”
You can see how NFL Now fits into that experience, too. Until NFL Now, fans in the stands had limited ability to get additional video game coverage that is the bread and butter of NFL Now, which can personalized the service so it leans toward your favorite team. So NFL Now, in a round-about way, improves the at-game experience. The NFL had weak attendance gains in 2013, and slight losses in some of the seasons before that, so getting fans in the stands is important.
Also, if you haven’t noticed, the NFL likes to keep its fiefdom away from negative forces. Huge TV contracts ensure the major networks take it easy on the league when it’s in the news, but there’s no surer way to do that than hooking fans into a ubiquitous pro-pro football site like NFL Now.
The fact that its highlights arrive quickly and in quantity and its archive is fascinating is not exactly beside the point, but that can divert fans from the police blotter news that often fills up the time in between Sunday's big games.