Latest news insight

It’s a funny old game

24 May 2017

BARB’s Joe Lewis delves into the latest data from Sky Go to explain how the Premier League is watched online

It’s fair to say, that in the UK, we love football. We may not be the best at it, but we certainly love it. We like to play it, talk about it, and most of all, watch it. Today, there are more football matches at the highest-level broadcast than ever before.

If we can, we’ll watch football on the best and biggest screen possible and in the most comfortable surroundings, either at home or in a local pub with friends. (For me, it’s more often than not hiding behind the back of the sofa.)

But sometimes that big screen experience is just not possible. Perhaps the living room TV has already been monopolised or you’re sat on a train as your favourite club is kicking off their latest match? Either way, we find ourselves turning to our devices to watch the match in any way we can.

In terms of live streaming, sport, and in particular football, remains the dominant genre of programming that is watched on devices.

For the Premier League in England, the only way to watch via your devices is either through a Sky or BT application.

As this year’s Premier League comes to a close, it’s particularly pertinent that as the only joint-industry measure of online television in the UK, we at BARB have a little look at how viewing to devices has changed across the season. We’re not yet collecting data from BT Sport’s app but there’s plenty of insight from viewing through Sky Go.

Week in, week out, Sky’s Premier League games have dominated the live streaming charts in our weekly TV Player Report.

Now that the season has finished we can see that there have been over 1.7 billion minutes of Sky Sport 1 viewing streamed to devices. Numberwanging aside, this is an additional 5% (in minutage terms) to the Sky Sports 1 brand on the TV set.

Of course, that includes all programming on Sky Sports 1 and not just football. So, if we actually look at the performance of football matches, the significance is even greater.

Since the beginning of the season, Premier League games have averaged over 47k average programme streams per game. The most popular game so far being the Liverpool v Manchester United game in October, which achieved 131k average programme streams. Put alongside the live TV audience of 1.69m, then that is an approximate 7.8% uplift.

We can’t yet look at this uplift by different demographics, but anticipate that the increase would be even higher for certain audiences.

We can gather then that some games attract larger audiences than others, but which team tops the table in this regard?

Although it was Chelsea who were crowned Premier League champions against Sunderland last Sunday, when it comes to topping the BARB Live streaming table, Chelsea have had to settle for 3rd place.

Unsurprisingly, Manchester United top the table in terms of attracting the most viewers, presumably with the bulk of the streams coming from their supporter heartlands in London and the South East. At the other end, the table looks more familiar, with Middlesbrough unable to catch a break this season with their poor performances on the pitch turning viewers away off the pitch.

But it’s not just the team playing that can impact on how popular a game is. The time and day of broadcast has an impact too. Historically, when you think of the football fixtures, like me, you probably think of 3pm on a Saturday afternoon. That’s where the bulk of our fixtures are. Turnstiles up and down the country are busy with crowds eager to watch their team.

But for TV viewing, restricted broadcasting rights mean that I personally actually think of a Sunday afternoon instead: relaxing in my front room, post roast dinner with a glass of wine in my hand. So, it’s interesting to see, that with viewing on devices, how the day of the week can have an impact on the popularity.

Saturday, which you would expect to be popular, is actually the least popular of all the days when it comes to live streaming to your devices. The exact reasons for this are unclear, but timing is likely to be a big driver. Sky’s Saturday games for this season moved to an early afternoon kick-off compared to the early evening previously.

A Saturday at lunchtime is potentially difficult if you have plans with your friends or family that day. Regardless of the convenience streaming to your devices offers, watching on a smartphone whilst out shopping might prove rather difficult. Surprisingly, of all games broadcast, it is mid-week that is the most popular.

This in part is due to the majority of these games being in the Christmas and close-season periods. It is also a sign of peak time TV set conflicts with other programming forcing us to our devices as the only means in order to watch the big match.

Either way, what we can see is that live streaming of football to our devices plays an important and vital complimentary role in our viewership to this genre, allowing us to ensure we don’t miss our favourite teams or important matches. The data that we now produce will continue to provide context and insight into this ‘value added’.

My only hope is that in a couple of years, I’ll be climbing out from behind the back of the sofa and talking to you again but this time about the unstoppable force that is Nottingham Forest. As Greavsie would say, it’s a funny old game.

Joe Lewis is head of insight, BARB