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Targeting Digital Sports Fans? Provide a Speedy Experience

March Madness fans care more about digital performance than how favorite team plays

April 7, 2015

Digital channels are playing a bigger part in the sports watching experience, and performance is critical for websites and apps looking to keep fans satisfied, based on late March 2015 research by Harris Poll for SOASTA. Among US adult internet users following the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) men’s Division 1 basketball tournament—also known as March Madness—58% said that poor mobile or online performance while streaming or following games was worse than their favorite team performing badly.

Leading Technology-Related Concerns About Following* March Madness According to US Internet Users, March 2015 (% of respondents)

Slow loading times when keeping up with March Madness via digital devices were the biggest gripe, cited by nearly four in 10 respondents. Related to that, lag time and time delays were also a concern—no one wants to find out about that buzzer beater 5 minutes after it happens—as were crashing and unresponsiveness.

Millennials following March Madness were particularly worried about performance issues. The majority (52%) said slow loading times were a concern, vs. 31% of those 35 and older. Crashing apps or websites were a worry for 36% of millennials, while just 16% of the older group said the same, and more than three in 10 (31%) younger respondents were peeved by unresponsiveness, compared with 18% of the 35-and-older group.

Based on October 2014 findings from Millward Brown Digital, it’s especially critical for smartphone sites and apps to avoid these issues for millennial viewers. Among 18-to-34-year-old US smartphone and tablet users polled, smartphones ranked as the most preferred device for checking sports scores or visiting sports sites, cited by nearly half (47%). Laptops and desktops were still important though, favored by about three in 10 (28%).

Gen Xers’ preferences were a little more even, as 33% favored laptops and desktops for checking sports scores or sites, and 25% smartphones. However, they were also more open to switching between devices, as just under one-third (32%) said they used whatever was most readily available (vs. just 12% of millennials). PCs were far more important among boomers, with 43% selecting them as their go-to devices for sports scores or content, vs. just 18% who chose smartphones. Three in 10 in this group grabbed the closest device.

Important Activities When Following March Madness Games According to US Internet Users, March 2015 (% of respondents)

For nearly two-thirds (65%) of SOASTA respondents, online and mobile were critical for following March Madness—and this proportion leaped to 86% for millennials. Accessing brackets, live streaming games and looking up player statistics were the most crucial digital activities.

As more fans view and follow sports during and after games, sites and apps providing such content need to be certain that performance is top-notch.

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