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Turner is finding that the more content it offers up via the third screen, the more viewers that are drawn to the old fashioned first screen. For example, downloads of the Turner-managed NBA Game Time app have jumped 87 percent compared to last year through the first round of the league’s playoffs, which began last month. Meanwhile, hoops junkies streamed over 200 million videos on NBA.com during round one of the playoffs, more than double last year, with an average of 7.5 million fans logging on each day, a surge of 68 percent versus the same time period in 2010. The increased digital interest among fans has only helped TV ratings, which have soared through round one compared to 2010.
That means that what many broadcasters have suspected: mobile initiatives are additive to their broadcast crown jewels. Instead of drawing viewers away, companion mobile initiative appear to draw more people back to TV, where the real money still is.
For Turner, the early NBA mobile and digital success comes on the heels of robust first-go at stewarding March Madness On Demand, the live-streaming of 60-plus men’s NCAA tournament games that was previously managed solely by Turner’s partner CBS. For example, during the first two weeks of the 2011 tournament, when at-work streaming typically peaks, visits to the MMOD video player ballooned 60 percent.
From Mar. 15 through Mar. 27, 29 percent of MMOD streams occurred on mobile devices–specifically the iPad and iPhone, where users could watch all the games for free (the iPhone app had required a subscription in previous years).
Mobile also drew a sizable audience; an average of 782,000 unique users on Mar. 17 and 18 vs. 3.8 million on the Web. Mobile users also average 25 minutes of usage per daily visit, per Turner.
All of that access to live games appeared to actually help boost the TV audience for the NCAA’s, which benefited from being available on four different Turner networks in the early rounds. Unlike the NBA, which streamed ‘extra’ content on the Web and mobile platforms — like press conferences and highlights — but not live games, some feared that Turners move to stream all the games on the Web, phones and iPads might have cannibalized TV.
The opposite is true, according to Walker Jacobs evp of Turner/ SI digital ad sales. “Viewers, particularly sports fans, want a dimensional viewing experience across multiple platforms and they want to be able to access content wherever they are,” he said. “Based on our past experiences with top-tier multi-platform sporting events like PGA Championship and NASCAR Race Buddy, we were confident, and have shown, that putting quality sports programming across digital platforms has helped drive additional tune in and on-air ratings.”
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