nScreenMedia OTT multiscreen media analysis

CandW discuss the streaming Super Bowl and HBO Now’s explosive growth

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The streaming Super Bowl was a mostly solid experience for the people that used it. 4 million streamed the game and few experienced any problems. HBO Now’s growth spurt in 2017, to 5 million subscribers, was impressive. Distribution partnerships seem to be the key.

Chapter 1: Our mobile Super Bowl experience (1:30)

Both Will and my Super Bowl experiences were mobile this year. He watched on a tablet on airport Wi-Fi using the NBC sports app. I watched the first half in a bar on a smartphone using my mobile data plan and the Yahoo Sports App. For the second half, I switched my PC on a home Wi-Fi network and continued to use the Yahoo Sports App. Apart from a delay of between 20 and 50 seconds behind the TV feed, both of us enjoyed flawless delivery throughout.

Our experience seems to have been typical of the people that utilized the live stream.

Chapter 2: Super Bowl by the numbers and vMVPD problems (6:10)

NBC reported that an average minute audience of 2 million people streamed Super Bowl LII, with a peak viewership of 3.1 million. These NBC numbers do not include all the people that watched the game on vMVPDs like Sling TV and DirecTV Now. Including those viewers in the total pushes the number of Super Bowl streamers to at least 4 million.

Two vMVPDs experienced trouble during the game. Some PS Vue customers saw problems with the stream early in the first half. Sony was able to cure these issues and went on to deliver solid quality in the second half. Hulu Live delivered a great experience right up until the last three minutes of the game. A glitch with its software that was supposed to extend viewing of the game if it went long didn’t work correctly. The result was some customers missed the dramatic last 3 minutes.

Chapter 3: HBO Now’s explosive 2017 growth (11:20)

During Time Warner Inc announcement of its fourth quarter 2017 results last week the company also revealed that HBO Now had reached 5 million subscribers. Keeping in mind that the service only reached two million subscribers in February 2017, more than doubling subs in just ten months is quite an achievement. What’s more, the direct-to-consumer service is driving growth at HBO. Overall, the company gained 5 million subscribers in 2017, meaning HBO Now contributed at least two-thirds of that number.

Chapter 4: What’s driving the growth online (16:20)

Will sees three major things driving the growth of HBO Now. With cable, a consumer must subscribe to a pay TV package (lower priced packages are still in the $60 a month range) before they can subscribe to HBO for $15. There is no such barrier to subscribing to HBO Now.

Will also thinks distribution partnerships are very important. HBO’s relationship with Amazon Channels is very close. He thinks that has helped drive the big growth in subscribers.

Finally, he points to the aggressive marketing tactics by AT&T. The company is offering HBO Now free to customers that sign-up for its all-you-can-eat data plan. This approach is being duplicated by T-Mobile that is offering its customers Netflix for free with a new family plan.

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