Announcing The Streaming MVP For This Year’s 2018 NBA Finals: Virtual MVPDs!

An Analysis of the 2018 NBA Finals Streaming TV Trends
(based on Conviva data)

After just four short games, the Warriors comfortably swept the Cavaliers in the 2018 NBA Finals, with Conviva in on every second of the action to measure the digital streaming audience across our publisher and virtual MVPD (vMVPD) base. Considering the Total Audience Analysis at this year’s 2018 NBA Finals, Conviva measured a total of 29.7M streams across all four games. Compared to last year, this represented an increase of 17% in the number of streams per game, on average. Over the course of the series, we saw 10M unique devices and applications used to stream the big games — up 5X from last year! — each with an average viewing time of 86 minutes. On average, this means that about 64% of the entire game time was viewed via live streaming. Viewers’ ability to watch their favorite sporting events even when not in front of a traditional television set has allowed overall viewership of these events to increase, allowing more opportunities for unique, revenue-generating possibilities. It wasn’t long ago when, prior to the option to stream, viewers staying late at work missed tip off or were in transit when the game started; they simply had to wait until arriving at a location with a traditional broadcast television setup. Today, they can stream right from their desktop computer or mobile device – and they do! It should also be noted that the rise of vMVPD’s has proved to be quite the game-changer as Conviva witnessed a significant increase in vMVPD streaming during this year’s finals, accounting for 20% of the total streams measured by Conviva.

For individual games, both games one and three saw over 1M peak concurrent streams across all providers, a roughly 30% increase of the peak Conviva saw last year. This shows that more viewers are watching unique streams all at the same time, which is one of the primary difficulties for live sports internet broadcasters – high peak concurrent viewing puts tremendous load on their video delivery infrastructure. One of the benefits of the rise of vMVPDs is the distribution of this load across multiple streaming providers – more than five for the NBA Finals.

In the Tale of Two [Streaming] Cities, Cleveland surged and ranged from 13-21% of internet connected households streaming this year’s finals, way up from last year’s averages of 7-11%. In contrast, the Bay Area held steady at 17-18% from last year’s range of 12-25%. Cleveland may have been swept on the court, but they definitely gained streaming audience share points on the Bay! Both greater metropolitan areas saw nearly the same average viewing time per unique device and application, with the Bay Area slightly ahead at 99 minutes vs. Cleveland’s 96 minutes…too close to call!

When analyzing the internet streaming TV Quality of Experience (QoE), three key metrics either improved year-on-year or stayed constant. The bitrate, or stream quality/resolution, improved to 5Mbps on average, with lows in the 4Mbps and highs around 6Mbps (up from 4Mbps last year). This is a lead indicator not only of more big-screen, high-resolution TV streaming this year, but happier viewers who are able to stream the games more clearly and seamlessly than years past. The average rebuffering ratio was an impressive 0.5% across all providers and peak loads, well below industry averages. What does that mean? Much less time seeing that “spinning wheel of death” that aggravates us all to no end. The interruption and waiting time in live sports with buffering is incredibly annoying, especially right before a buzzer-beating shot; so, the low rebuffering number is a great leading indicator for the streaming industry’s improved quality overall. Finally, the time it took for a streamed game to start from when the viewer hit play to when he/she started watching the live stream (also known as video start time) averaged just four seconds, which is in line with last year’s average. While we would all love to see this number improved to virtually zero seconds, most in the video streaming industry know delivering video over the internet is HARD, but we are well on our way to creating an experience for viewers that is seamless, clear, and magnificent.

Another NBA Finals in the books, and we look forward to measuring more streams with Conviva’s all-screen, census data – doing our part to measure and improve the next generation of TV.