You’ve probably heard this year’s college football opening weekend was the most watched of all time. The Ohio State / Virginia Tech matchup was the third most watched regular season game ever. There was another record put on the books. It was the most streamed college game of all time with 708,000 viewers watching through the Watch ESPN online streaming service.
That number is almost as many as the 744,000 people who streamed game four of the NBA Finals earlier this year, or the 1.1 million people who streamed the opening match of last year’s World Cup. The volume of the streaming audience is definitely significant when an early regular season game is competing with previous worldwide events.
Live sports have long been the post to which traditional marketers have tied their arguments on the viability of the cable/satellite television model. Progressive and easily excitable marketers are now touting the shift from traditional to non-traditional television and video advertising. We hear pitches for pre-roll commercials (the ones that play before webcast videos load).
The world of advertising is changing, and live streaming is going to drive that change. There’s no need to dive off the cliff — yet.
Headlines abound: “How will marketers, networks and cable companies survive in the transition to non-traditional media?”
Seven hundred thousand viewers was enough volume to make headlines, but you must consider another 10 million tuned in through traditional cable and satellite feeds.
There’s a big difference between mindful preparation and rushing headlong into mayhem.
There are still breaks in live programming to be sold. Football teams have to take a break, at the very least, between quarters and halves. Timeouts are necessary for strategy and the health of players. Baseball teams switch between offense and defense about every 15 minutes.
I was watching a San Francisco Giants game on the MLB streaming app the other night — well most nights. I pay for a subscription service, so there aren’t commercials, but there are already built in commercial breaks because of the way baseball is played. It’s funny that MLB had to animate their logo during commercial breaks so viewers wouldn’t think the video froze. I would almost rather watch a commercial than stare at the MLB logo for three minutes. You have to consider that’s the opinion of a marketer and a baseball fan, though.
While many streaming services offer new ways to advertise, don’t freak out yet. The traditional commercial is still viable, and a traditional commercial on a non-traditional platform can feel weird.
Many companies show their standard 30-second television commercial during pre-roll without optimizing it to the online viewer or the fact that they can skip most ads after five seconds. Geico is the only company I’ve seen nail the pre-roll commercial.
Geico’s most recent batch of spots features about five seconds of cheesy action and voiceover before a narrator says, “You can’t skip this commercial because it’s already over.” The actors then hold their final pose for the remaining minute of the commercial as the set slowly falls apart. In one, two friends grilling high five and then hang suspended as the grill slowly catches on fire. Another features a family at the dinner table, and as they are frozen, the family dog methodically eats every bit of food on the table.
Know that non-traditional advertising platforms are on the horizon. Feel free to begin researching and brainstorming how or if your company can use them, but remember that live-stream viewers are still a minority. Make sure to put reports into perspective.
It’s time to prepare. It’s not the time to freak out.