Tablets and the London Olympics will change how we watch TV permanently

July 19, 2012

With the London Olympics due to start in just over a week's time, brands have been falling over themselves trying to cash in on the event. Terrestrial TV stations have been rammed full of Olympic TV ads from Adidas, Visa and Samsung. Event sponsorship has already been sewn up and there’s even been the release of Olympic themed cars and tablets.

This will be the first Olympics where tablets are truly prevalent (the first iPad was still a month away when the 2010 Winter Olympics took place in Vancouver, Canada) and the signs are that they will have an important role to play.

A handful of broadcasters will be pushing live and replayed video content, as well as up-to-date news, to iPads and Android tablets during the event, in order to expand their coverage.

And in fairness, why shouldn’t they? Approximately four billion people are expected to watch this year's games and with 4.7 million people having reportedly watched 5,000 hours coverage of the Beijing Games in 2008, this is clearly an event everyone wants to see.

Most broadcasters seem aware of this, and see the tablet (and the accompanying second-screen apps) as a great tool for delivering more content to more viewers. NBC and the BBC have rolled out smartphone and tablet Olympic apps for watching live streams, checking out replays or the latest news, while sports fans will also be able to turn to TV companion apps like Zeebox and GetGlue. The same broadcasters will no doubt have noted that tablet TV viewing has doubled in the last year.

So, what does this all mean? My feeling is that this will be the biggest demonstration of the second-screen world to date. Viewers will be watching the Games on their TV, tracking results and news on their iPad and Android tablets, and a fair few will be using their slates to watch live events when out on the road.

In fact, this could well be the watershed moment for second-screen TV viewing. Vizio CTO Matt McRae recently told GigaOM that tablets are replacing the second TV in the household, and while it’s certainly possible that the Olympics may spark this trend, I think this whole second-screen world may have an even bigger impact on the TV industry.

With more viewers turning to their tablets when watching TV, broadcasters are going to have to find new ways of engaging viewers, advertisers will start looking to sell ads to second screen apps, and even TV manufacturers will have to evaluate how tablets fit into TV viewing before launching new Internet Connected TVs.

The second screen world may have only been a niche up until this point, but that could all change after two weeks of sport in the capital of England.

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