With the 2016 Summer Olympics now a memory, it's time to look back at how Americans took in all that sports coverage. How we watched the Rio games can tell us a lot about the current state of media and technology and give us insights on trends in mobile device adoption and cord-cutting.
What one research provider found about our Olympics viewing habits may be surprising. But before we dive into the results, there are some key points to note. Although some viewers inevitably found ways to get around it, Comcast-owned NBC is the exclusive provider of Olympics coverage in the United States. The network analysis firm Sandvine measured Olympics streaming on NBC from a single day, Aug. 10, from a single broadband provider it declined to name. Overall, Olympics streaming accounted for about 2 percent of prime time evening Internet usage, according to Sandvine.
Here's what Sandvine found overall: Mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, accounted for almost 20 percent of the evening's Olympics stream. An additional 17 percent went to set-top boxes, such as Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV. Of these, Roku boxes were the overwhelming favorite among Olympics viewers, eating up a 10 percent share.
In the end, however, PCs took the prize, accounting for more than 60 percent of that night's consumption, Sandvine reported.
Why is this so interesting? Well, much of the narrative surrounding entertainment and technology these days has to do with mobile devices becoming a more dominant platform. Sandvine's data show that iPhones, Android devices and iPads account for almost one-third of general Internet consumption, much higher than what we see from the chart above.
Analysts say this discrepancy highlights the particular way in which Americans could access their Olympics coverage online. To watch the Internet live stream, viewers needed to log in through their cable subscription. The downside to this meant being chained to a cable provider, but the upside was that once you authenticated you could watch from any device — mobile or otherwise.
Add to that the dismal reviews of NBC's mobile streaming app and you have a powerful incentive to watch from a laptop. Although much of our media consumption is increasingly shifting toward mobile devices, live-stream events such as the Olympics may be one area where PCs could remain dominant for some time.