It's game on! The opening week of World Cup 2014 has finally arrived and football fever is taking hold. With 3.2 billion people viewing at least one minute of game-time during the 2010 tournament (with that record set to be broken again this year), a burning question for the digital media industry is: 'where will you be watching the next golden goal?'
It wasn't always a complex question – back in the day viewers opted to catch games at home in the living room or in the pub. But the demand to keep up with the action, whether inside or outside the home, is now making the picture of today's World Cup viewer, a far more fragmented one – particularly when it comes to the age gap. Younger viewers in particular will be reaching for whatever screen is closest to them to stream matches, according to Voxburner research, with over half planning to bypass the TV screen, and watch the best players in the world via their PCs and laptops.
As I mentioned in a blog post earlier in the year, sport is one of the few viewing experiences left where live viewing is necessary – and even integral to the success of this type of programming. Thankfully, high-quality live content is now accessible across all screens alike, with providers such as Sky's NOW TV bringing pay-TV content in the UK to all popular devices.
But why do we crave the ability to watch a game across any device? It's because we want engaging, personalised experiences and convenience. Not everyone is going to want to watch the same game at the same time, so offering different channels on different devices gives viewers the opportunity to track the team they’re rooting for. This layer of personalisation is something consumers have come to expect – thanks in part to major sporting events, such as the Olympic Games. Many national broadcasters around the world now offer different channels as part of the coverage, and viewers in the UK would no doubt be shocked if they couldn't watch a different team play during the tournament.
Underlying this experience is the ongoing importance of high-quality image and picture. It's something of which the BBC is keenly aware, having just announced plans to live stream the World Cup final in Ultra HD on large screens in key areas of London for the general public's enjoyment.
So why the race for multi-screen sports content in Ultra HD quality? It's because sports fans don't just want to see a game, they want to feel it too, partaking in experiences that rival, and can even enhance, the experience of being there in person – and without the hefty price tag of doing so!
Voxburner's report is a fantastic example of how we've evolved into sport lovers who want our content on the most accessible screen, and in the best possible quality. Sport is about immediacy, and being part of a shared, timely experience. After all, no-one wants to be the guy that missed the next "Hand of God" goal!