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Online Video & the Great Sporting Event

With the Virgin London Marathon quickly approaching, we ask whether London 2012 has truly set the standard for online video coverage and engagement?

Technology experts claimed that London 2012 was the first digital games, as the BBC delivered unprecedented coverage across multiple platforms and allowing audiences to watch every single event live.

Of course it wasn’t just the Olympics last year, the BBC and ITV succeeded in dusting off the country’s football aspirations once again, only to pack them away once more after a rather predictable penalty exit to the Euro 2012 runners up Italy. Nonetheless, there was a much needed national sporting confidence boost in Bradley Wiggins Tour de France victory just in time for the London 2012 Olympics, an event that was in the planning for 7 years.

Arguably, broadcasters had enough time to prepare for such a colossal event. There had been huge innovations in online and broadcast video as well as ground breaking integration of in-depth data that had enabled broadcasters to enhance their own personalisation and social features to encourage participation on a larger scale. The BBC iPlayer has been praised hugely for its leading innovations in on-demand services, but its ultimate test was ahead; broadcasting every Olympic sporting event live while the whole world is watching.

The BBC claimed to give audiences more choice than ever before by giving access to every event, sport and venue live, on-demand and interactive across the bbc.co.uk/sport site. The real challenge however was in the broadcaster’s ability to offer detailed access to real-time updated Olympics data, statistics and news amongst the high quality coverage. The enhanced social features promised to enable audiences to follow and “favourite” every athlete, sport, event and country through tailored updates, using Twitter visualisations and social media commentary to create more of a buzz within online communities.

The truth is that when it comes to global events such as the Olympic Games, social features and online interactions are the best the way to keep audiences on the edge of their seats. Recent statistics show that a lot of us spend just as much time watching the Twitter feed as we do watching the sporting event. The comments of others and social interaction not only made events more exciting, but it also gives people the platform to share this excitement with others. Of course we are all watching from home, but digitally we are all watching together.

It is essentially social media integration that is driving the success of online video platforms amongst sports audiences. Last year StreamMP, the online platform created by StreamUK and used by sports clubs including Liverpool FC, made a huge development by making social media functionality one of its most fundamental components. StreamUK built a ‘time capture share feature’, where online sports fans were able to pin-point content second-by-second and share it with friends and communities online. The feature first grew in popularity during an annual marathon in Madrid, where participants were able to watch the race after and share their finishing time with others via social media.

The trending focus amongst social media video sharing experts is to make the actual sharing process as quick and efficient as possible, which ultimately encourages people to share their favourite video moments more freely with others. The London 2012 Olympic Games reached the pinnacle of social video sharing, as unrivalled streaming of multiple events reaches multiple countries through multiple platforms.

Twitter integration within online video has become an incredibly useful tool for the niche sports as well. Typically most will be interested in the 100m (and possibly the women’s volleyball), but there are still millions worldwide anxiously awaiting events such as the archery, fencing and canoe sprint. Twitter enables these fans to topic search and start communicating with similar online followers, combined with the live action unfolding in front of their eyes.

It’s hard to think of a broader and all compassing event than the Olympics, although it seems that perhaps online video is the only medium to do the event justice. Although we’ll have dedicated channels and high quality broadcasting, only online video can offer a sustainable on-demand service, giving audiences the control to browse and enjoy the official Olympic experience through multiple mobile devices. But now with enhanced social media sharing, global audiences will have the share power not only to distribute full content, but share the best bits for others to enjoy time and time again.