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Sports Video on the Web

Fans are loyal, but want quality content.

The continued success of the sports industry will depend largely on how well sports properties migrate their video content online.

Screen Digest expects sports sites in the US to more than double the number of video streams and downloads they serve online, reaching 10.9 billion in 2012, up from 5.3 billion in 2007. While this increase is large, it actually represents a declining share of total online TV streams and downloads. That decline is more a measure of the expected growth of online video as a whole than an indication of any weakness in the sports sector.

Other forms of online video—such as entertainment and music video—are growing at faster rates than sports as a result of user-generated content, according to a study by AccuStream iMedia Research.

In contrast, the vast majority of online sports video content is made up of professional media. This suggests that sports fans go online to watch highlights of their favorite teams, not to view homemade clips of athletic exploits by average citizens.

An eMarketer estimate based on a weighted average of data from eight research firms determined that 30% of US online video viewers watched sports clips and highlights on the Internet at least once per month. This does not include live sporting events, which fall into the "other" category in the ranking.

A comScore study that tracked unique viewers and videos viewed on US sports sites found that ESPN.com and MLB.com were well ahead of the competition in both categories. During the year leading up to April 2008, ESPN.com averaged roughly 8.8 million unique viewers and 78.2 million clips per month, while MLB.com logged an average of 5.7 million viewers and 25.4 million videos.

"These findings are a clear indication that the Internet is reshaping how Americans consume sports content," said eMarketer senior analyst Paul Verna.

"It started with news and scores and then evolved into fantasy leagues and post-game highlights. Now, more consumers are using online channels to stream live games, and we expect this trend to continue as leagues get more comfortable with this model—and as broadcast contracts allow for greater leeway in how content is syndicated on multiple platforms."

Learn more about how to reach sports fans. Get your copy of the new eMarketer report, Sports Site Marketing: Ad Revenue Models Pull Ahead, today.

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