First Published on Running Rugby

Whether it's checking scores, using social media, just browsing the internet or even watching another game, the way we consume rugby is changing and the second screen phenomenon is very much the latest trend in sports media.

The latest Know The Fan report, carried out by Perform Group in conjunction with SportBusiness Group and Kantar Media, shows that almost half (43 per cent) of sports fans in Britain sometimes use a second screen device whilst watching matches on television.

As much as 73 per cent of the adult population of the country, or 35.5 million people, claim to follow sport and rugby union is the fourth most followed sport with 21 per cent or just under 7.5 million fans up and down the land.

Rugby league is followed by 11 per cent of the population (joint ninth) or just under four million people and Frank Dunne from TV Sports Markets, which is part of SportBusiness Group, says it is vital to know your fans if you are involved in the business of any sport.

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“In an age in which developments in technology and communications are rewriting the rule book every year, knowing the fan – what the fan does, wants to do, dreams of being able to do – is the surest, perhaps the only, way of future-proofing your business,” he said.

“In a world of flux, the passion of the fan is a constant. So the starting point for anyone running a business in the sports media industry should be pretty obvious: Know The Fan.”

The online media has now overtaken print as the second most popular way to consume sport in Britain, after television, and we are second only to the US in terms of the proportion of the population getting their sports news from places other than TV, such as tablets, mobiles and laptops.

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Television is still very much king, with 95 per cent of British sports fans using it to watch sport and the average fan watching 3.2 hours per week (fourth highest in the world after South Africa, Brazil and USA).

However, the proportion of people consuming sport online has risen from 52 to 61 per cent (21.66m people) since 2011 and the proportion doing so via social media has doubled from 13 to 26 per cent (9.23m people) and Dunne says the latter is becoming ever more important to businesses.

“One of the striking patterns to have emerged in the report since its first edition in 2011 is that every year the take-up and interest in all forms of content delivered by the internet – including short-form video clips, minute-by- minute text commentary, and social networking – has increased in double- digit leaps. Yet every year, the TV screen remains the number one device for the consumption of sport,” he said.

“Another area of rapid growth has been in the consumption of sports content via social media platforms. In the 2014 report, the consumption of sport via social networking platforms increased in all markets that were previously surveyed (except Turkey where it has decreased slightly).

“Rights-holders and media companies are increasingly looking at ways to work social into the overall commercial offering.”

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Connected TV, which hooks up to a broadband connection directly or via a set top box, usage has also increased from just one in 50 sports fans in Britain in 2011 to one in 10 today and the greater choice on offer from such a variety of media appears to be making fans more discerning.

As many as 27 per cent of British sports fans would now choose to pay for games or events on a pay-per-view basis if possible and the number with a preference for a more traditional annual subscription is 28 per cent.

All sports, including rugby, need to keep pace where possible with technological advancements and the resultant changes in fan behaviour when it comes to television and new media but the Know The Fan report clearly concludes that for every challenge posed, there is an opportunity created.

“The pace of technological change outstrips the speed at which governments can legislate, authorities can draw up regulatory measures, multinationals can adapt their business models, or content producers – certainly those locked into three- or five-year sales cycles – can update their sales strategies,” said Dunne.

“If this asymmetry – between the speed of technological change and everything else – were not a challenge enough, its characteristics are different from region to region and even from country to country.

“This keeps media markets across the globe in a state of uncertainty that can throw up conflicts but can also provide unprecedented commercial opportunities for those who dare to surf the wave of change. In the last few years, we have witnessed a huge uptake in the consumption of content on new technology and social media platforms – opportunities eagerly being explored by sport.”

By Tim Grove, Editor of Running Rugby 


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