If Rio was Mobile-First, then Tokyo will be the Pre-positioned Olympics

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There’s no question that the Rio Olympics has been a streaming success, cementing mobile’s place as the first screen for video.

US TV ratings have declined 20% from London in 2012 but video streaming has boomed. Akamai delivered more video traffic in the first three days of Rio than during the entire 2012 London games.

Back in 2012, social mobile was massive but adoption of video was still nascent. Facebook’s famous mobile pivot had just begun. Snapchat Stories and Meerkat’s live streaming debut at SXSW were still more than two years away.

Now in 2016 mobile video is ascendant. The BBC Sport mobile app set a weekly record with 4.4m unique users, including 2.7m uniques in a single day. In China the Games are on mobile for the first time. 67 percent of Chinese viewers watched on their smartphones, even though state broadcaster CCTV imposes a 30-minute delay. Australian broadcaster Channel Seven smashed records, with 2.8m streams on the first day of competition.

Mobile video will continue its gold medal performance at Tokyo 2020

According to Cisco, 75% of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video in 2020, up from 50% today. If growth continues at this rate, the network infrastructure that delivers streaming over the Internet will be under pressure.

5G networks promising increased speeds and capacity are on the horizon, but the actual standards are still being written, and widespread rollout is not a sure-thing by mid-2020.

Broadcasters need mobile streaming strategies that deliver both an excellent user experience, and guarantee underlying ad revenue

One approach is smoothing peaks and troughs in network utilization by separating video delivery from consumption. However sports, like few other media properties (news and singing contests?) contain the bulk of their value in ‘live’. Content pre-positioning does have a role to play though.

Depending on the viewer’s timezone relative to Tokyo, it could make sense to pre-position highlight clips of the favorite team or particular sports according to user preferences. This can be done while the mobile is connected to WiFi, or pushed out over off-peak cellular networks. When fans wake up, their package of swimming or track finals is available in instant start-HD, free of any network delivery issues.

For the live events generating millions of concurrent streams, this isn’t an option, but intelligent delivery still has a place. Ad units for each live event can be delivered ahead of time. This allows them to be inserted in to the live stream as the primary ad unit, or as a backup if there are delivery issues with the streamed version. Guaranteed play out means maximum fill rates and no lost revenue opportunities.

Mobile world records will once again be set at Tokyo 2020 as audiences continue their migration from linear TV. Olympic broadcasters and rights-holders have time to plan pre-positioning strategies as both viewers and advertisers demand increasing quality and performance from their video experience.

Mark Adams is CEO of Incoming Media. We use high quality video and machine intelligence to enhance the value of mobile subscribers. If you’d like regular Gold Medal updates on the business of mobile, please like this post and follow me.