How to boost the audience of a sport video platform by socialization tools
Hugging after scoring a goal or groaning after a foul — these are the things that create a sense of togetherness when you are watching sports in a stadium, a sports bar or on TV. So how is it that we can bring opportunities for togetherness to a digital platform? Can digital socialization be a credible alternative to that sense of unity we get at the stadium? But the main question is how does this affect the platform into which the socialization mechanism is integrated?
What does socialization give to users?
Since the early 2010’s, streaming services have spread and users have begun to subscribe to them for sports content, among other things. In 2021, 54 % of viewers chose streaming services for watching sports. In Europe the rate was lower, at around 20–30%, yet almost half of all young viewers (18–24) from around the world preferred watching video online to TV.
Because of such intense growth amongst streaming services, researchers have started to study them, but the focus of this research has been primarily upon the new opportunities created, rather than on the move from one platform to another. Since the mid-2010’s a plethora of research into online sports socialization events has appeared. This is being studied in different countries. We can assume that there are different viewing patterns in each of the countries, nevertheless researchers are getting similar results.
Socialization helps us to feel that we are participating in an event
One of the first extensive researches about sports broadcasts on SLSS platforms was conducted by Han Soo Kim and Minjung Kim from The University of Mississippi. They concluded that the communication driving satisfaction while viewing derives from absorbed engagement. Sports fans want to enjoy sport games by cheering or booing for their teams or criticizing their opponents in concert with other fans (Wann, 2006).
Social live streaming services (SLSS) have emerged as a new type of hedonic social media. SLSS allow users to watch and discuss video streams in real-time.
Watching a game alone distances sports fans both from the team and from other fans, and therefore deprives them the feeling of unity. Socialization on SLSS platforms brings back this lost unity and takes the viewing experience to another level, unlike TV broadcasts or viewing alone on digital platforms. Communities are formed also by complete sync — of video, chat and emotions.
At the same time, viewers absolutely do perceive online communities created via SLSS platforms as “real-life”. When viewers have a high sense of community, they tend to pay extra attention to what is happening and information in the community and see it as relevant. As a result, the viewer’s perceive the live community as real-life (Xie et al., 2019).
Escape from everyday routine
When discussing communication during co-viewing sport broadcasts researchers use the term ‘flow’. Flow was defined by Csikszentmihalyi (1975) in the field of psychology to explain the moments at which individuals experience holistic immersion in a task or a process. Sport fans tend to spend time watching sport events for such flow states(Chang et al., 2018). Flow allows viewers to quickly get away from their boring, everyday routines, and this escape from reality and possibility for distraction is the primary reason for the use of video platforms in general.
In the SLSS context, when people view sport events and simultaneously participate in real-time conversations, they may reach the state of being in flow, which helps them solve another problem — tension release. People generally watch sports content on SLSS platforms in order to reduce anxiety, and communicate it chats so as to leave their everyday cares behind.
Beat the loneliness
Film watching can be perceived as a shared dream and as an personal experience, while viewing of sports broadcasts isn’t as much linked with the state of an individual. As we have said, sports fans seek unity with their team and with other fans. They choose the next best picks even for matches that aren’t their favorites. This means that what they are seeking is the experience of cheering together alongside other fans. All of the above, combined with the exchange of emotions and reactions, allows viewers to beat the loneliness they have while watching alone.
But don’t users already connect with each other on social media while watching games? Besides, sometimes leagues broadcast events in their social media accounts on Facebook Live, Twitter Live, or YouTube. It seems that our solution needs to be more convenient for viewers, considering that they use social media anyway.
SM diversity doesn’t exactly create a sense of unity, and doesn’t allow users to get into the flow, or solve the loneliness problem. Usual accounts can be distracting, since event viewing is not synchronized through the account. Even if other users belong to the group in which the event is broadcast, there is no guarantee that these other users are watching the game, rather than the feed.
Social media has so many diverse functions, that this can interfere with full immersion into sports content. Direct socialization — right within the platform itself — solves this problem, allowing users to get into the flow and freely fall into communication with other viewers, given that all of them are interested in sharing emotions.
Feel connected with a team
Some researchers have concluded that there is a connection between satisfaction with a certain platform and users’ well-being. Well-being has been studied in the sport management mainly in connection with attendees of sport events (e.g., Wann, Martin, Grieve, & Gardner, 2008) or sports participants (e.g., Shankar, McMunn, Demakakos, Hamer, & Steptoe, 2017). Wann (2006) claimed how and why the well-being of sport fans is associated with team identification.
This effect can be increased by a streamer or by the host of a broadcast event, who acts as a medium between the team and the fans. This can have a positive impact on the relationship between social presence and watching intention. In addition, inviting streamers is an easy way to highlight current sports events and engage viewers’ attention by making use of a streamer’s attractiveness. People spontaneously identify with streamers with particular appeal and see them as role models (Wang and Scheinbaum, 2018; Hou et al., 2019; Song and Kim, 2020). Attractive streamers can divert viewers’ stress and gain positive emotions (Hung, 2014; Yuan and Lou, 2020).
Attract and entertain Gen Zers
Research shows that Gen Zers value their time more than do other generations, and are therefore very thorough in choosing what their time will be spent on, so as not to waste it.
Quite a number of polls have shown that with the migration of young people (16–25) onto digital platforms there is a decrease in their interest in watching sporting events, although this decrease isn’t very significant. According to polls, centennials call themselves sports fans, though not as actively as millennials or baby boomers, but it’s hard for them to watch sports the same way as other generations do. The reason doesn’t have to do with their age, but with changes in mentality that have occurred between the generations. They want to communicate while consuming the content. Social mechanisms integrated into video platforms give them opportunities to interact which increases the value of watching.
How does this affect platforms?
A sense of belonging and successful communication induces users to return to a platform, where they have already benefited from positive emotional feedback, meaning that this positive emotion is, in turn, transferred back to the platform itself.
Social instruments may increase the view rate of broadcast events in several ways.
Firstly, social presence improves viewers’ pleasure (Choi, 2016; Liu et al., 2020). Secondly, it can lessen both emotional and social distance (Zhou F. et al., 2019). Thirdly, socialization has a positive impact on online viewers’ comradery in general, which can help to attract new users via invitation (Han, 2016; Kim and Song, 2016). And finally, social instruments create habits which increase the loyalty of online communities (Nadeem, 2020).
Researchers underscore that the greater the opportunity is for interactivity and extra engagement, the better the overall effect for the platform. Users can give likes and virtual gifts to a streamer or to each other, respond to the event they are watching, or predict final scores via various tests and quizzes. These instruments help to expand paid behavior, meaning that new partnership opportunities to drive the development of paid features will also arise.
If sports fans are actively migrating to online platforms, logically this means that they are going to the services which meet their needs, and where their experience matches, or even exceeds, that of physical, on-site participation in sporting events.
Watchers is a white label solution, which provides the ability to create online rooms on your video-platform. In these online rooms users will be able to watch content simultaneously while chatting by text or voice. At first, Watchers was created as a b2c app and now it is a SaaS being used by companies to show-case their content and to boost their business making use of social mechanisms.
If you want to learn more or to integrate our solution into your platform, сontact us: contact @watchers.io (https://watchers.io/b2b)