Computers and Technology

NBA Finals: A New Viewing Experience

Unlike most major TV events the past several years, ratings for the NBA Finals were up slightly this year.

The two-time champion Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers averaged  12.2 in metered market ratings for four games, up about 7% for ABC. About 17.9 million people watched Game 3.

Those numbers would have been higher if not for online viewership of this year’s four-sweep sweep, which increased 17% from a year ago, according to Conviva, a streaming measurement provider. Some 29.7 million people watched the series, with more than 10 million viewing it on unique devices and applications – up five times from 2017.

The major networks, cable providers, and tech companies are fully aware of where the eyeballs — and advertising revenue — are headed, and are moving in that direction with more live-streaming services.

“Live-streaming increasingly is how consumers choose to watch sports,” Ed Haslam, Chief Marketing Officer of Conviva, tells Barron’s, noting that Games 1 and 3 drew more than 1 million concurrent streams. That was a record for an NBA game, and up about 30% from last year, he says.

The eye-popping numbers, which are expected to growth significantly for FIFA World Cup starting Thursday, offer a vivid display of where live viewing is headed. Over-the-top video will generate revenue of $30.6 billion in 2022, compared with $20.1 billion in 2017, as high-speed internet access and cordless packages spread, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

A crowded landscape of Netflix (ticker: NFLX), Hulu, CBS‘s (CBS) All Access, Dish Network‘s (DISH) Sling TVAT&T‘s (T) DirecTV Now, Google’s YouTube TVHulu LiveSony‘s (6758.Japan) PlayStation Vue, and various sports packages from Walt Disney‘s (DIS) ESPN+ MLB, the NBA, and FuboTV will only accelerate both content and investment in the area, Chris Vollmer, global advisory leader, entertainment and media, at PwC, tells Barron’s.

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