Adobe research finds mobile sports viewing driving huge growth in digital video

One namesake trend we focus on here at Mobile Sports Report — watching sports online or on mobile devices — is the primary driver of the continued worldwide growth in digital video consumption, according to the latest comprehensive study put together by software giant Adobe.

In the Adobe Digital Index Benchmark Report for Q4 2013, the survey looked at digital video, spanning 2012 and 2013 and using aggregated and anonymous data from more than 600 media and entertainment sites. According to Adobe the survey analyzed 22.5 billion online video starts, half a billion mobile video starts as well as 574 million authenticated streams from cable providers’ “TV Anywhere” implementations. The survey also asked 400 sports fans about their viewing habits. While there’s lots of chewy bits to digest, the killer line from the research says, in part: “The trends outlined in this report clearly demonstrate that sports viewing is the engine behind digital video growth.”

Well WE could have told you that. But it’s nice to see solid data backing up our directive assumptions.

Just how potentially big is online and mobile sports viewing? While the Adobe report is just one (albeit comprehensive) set of data, some points jump out, like the one that found that sports video streams increased 640 percent, year over year, compared to an overall growth of 440 percent for all types of content. On the TV Everywhere side, sports events accounted for 37 percent of all streams, compared to 32 percent for news programs and 28 percent for TV shows. Again, no surprise to us: People like the ability to watch sports live, whenever they can. And mobile devices help them do just that.

Campbell Foster, director of product marketing for Adobe Primetime, the company’s TV publishing infrastructure platform for service providers, said the data back up what many other industry observers have noted about sports: It is engagement viewing that fans don’t want to miss, so they use whatever device they can to watch.

“The nature of the content [in sports] is perishable, so sports is something people want to watch live,” said Foster, in a phone interview to discuss the report’s findings. Another nugget from the report is that one quarter of all sports digital viewing now happens on mobile devices, a 73 percent year-over-year increase. And though tablets lead all forms of non-TV devices for video viewing, streams on smartphones and gaming consoles are also growing rapidly, a finding we take as meaning that the top of mobile and online viewing is a long way away.

Some other interesting points from the report include:

— Facebook leads the way with social referred video starts
— Half of visits referred from Facebook or Tumblr to sports related sites result in a video view (vs. 39 percent for YouTube, and 25 percent for Twitter)
— Most video starts come directly from search to branded sites, with social referrals accounting for just 6 percent of all streams
— Apple iOS devices are still killing the competition, with more than a 50 percent market share

It will be interesting to see how other industry outlets react to the Adobe report, which we think has the chance to become the online video industry’s informational equivalent of the Cisco Visual Networking Index. At the very least, Adobe’s attempt to quantify the surge of online sports video use we see in our reporting and analysis every day is admirable, and it puts some stakes in the ground for further discussions about audience value, ROI of mobile, and potential new businesses that can be crafted from the idea that a new audience type is not only emerging but continuing to expand.

Adobe chart showing growth in sports streams. (click for larger view)

Adobe chart showing growth in sports streams. (click for larger view)

Breakdown of video streams for TV Everywhere (click for larger view)

Breakdown of video streams for TV Everywhere (click for larger view)