Streaming player Roku reports that NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament viewing hours on its platform rose 75.4%, and streaming reach rose 86.6%, compared with the 2019 tournament.
Streaming reach is the number of Roku households that streamed channels carrying the games while they were live.
Roku also reports that about 58% of those who watched the 2019 tournament on traditional linear TV via Roku did not return to traditional TV to watch this year’s tournament, while 25.5% of those have streamed a channel carrying the games during the games’ live coverage.
Through the national semifinal games on April 3, traditional linear viewers over age 18 declined about 23%, while 80.4% of TV streaming was by viewers between 18 and 49, reports Roku.
Roku’s analysis also showed that the higher the seed of a team within a Final-Four market, the higher the percentage of active Roku TV households that tuned into semifinal games on traditional linear TV.
While CBS’s 17 million average viewers for this year’s Baylor-vs.-Gonzaga title game on Monday was down 14% from 2019, ViacomCBS presumably benefitted from streaming gains via Paramount+, which carried the game and shared the tournament with Turner Sports, notes Deadline.
The COVID-19 pandemic — which caused 2020’s NCAA tournament to be cancelled — drove an overall surge in streaming, and no doubt helped accelerate the growth of streaming device adoption.
Roku’s number of active accounts reached 51.2 million by year-end 2020, up from 27.1 million at the end of 2018.
According to a new consumer survey by Hub Entertainment Research, 40% of U.S. TV households now report having Roku, either through a device such as a player, smart speaker or streaming stick, or through a smart TV with a built-in Roku operating system. That’s up from 35% in Q1 2020 and 30% in Q1 2019. (Fire TV households were found to be at 29%, up from 23% in 2019.)
Roku, which worked with Dentsu’s Amplifi to generate the tournament data for Dentsu clients, points out that basketball is not alone in seeing a consumer shift toward live-streaming games.
“This is the latest example of the transformation shift occurring in TV viewing behavior,” states Roku National Brad Team Lead Kristina Shepard. “What we’re seeing is reflective of a change taking place across all the major sports as they returned from a pandemic-induced pause.”
Marketers looking to continue reaching mass audiences through live sports “must shift their focus towards TV streaming,” Shepard asserts.