Sofia | Aug 03, 2020

Last year, TV viewership of the NCAA college basketball tournament – known commonly as March Madness – was the highest it had been in 22 years, averaging 11.3 million viewers. That’s roughly the equivalent of the combined populations of Chicago and New York!  Additionally, there were 80.7 million live video streams and 17.8 million hours (or about 2.5 months worth) of live video consumption during last year’s tournament.

Given these record-setting numbers from last year’s tournament and how we witnessed a burst of second-screen usage during recent large sporting events, such as the Super Bowl, we wanted to find out how viewers were planning to use their mobile devices during March Madness this year.

So, we surveyed 800 mobile users in the U.S. across our mobile ad platform last month. Here’s what we discovered:

Multi-tasking madness

When the Opera Mediaworks mobile ad platform reached over 1 billion users last year, we learned that generally, mobile users spend most of their time within sports apps (e.g., ESPN), spending on average 173 minutes a month. We also discovered that they spend an average of 136 minutes each month within gaming apps.

So when we asked users what activities they intend on doing on their mobile device while watching the tournament, we weren’t surprised to find that 46% plan on playing in-app games and that 37% will browse around in sports apps, proving that sports and gaming will continue to reign supreme in the app world.

What about socializers? One in four mobile users will spend their time in social media apps, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Some 27% will be texting. Activity in these apps can consist of reactive comments to events that happen during the tournament, such as a game going into overtime, a game-winning basket or even commenting on a particularly interesting advertisement.

For advertisers, this is exactly the kind of second-screen moment they’ve been dreaming of! Mobile users are not only using their phones for research during the game, thus providing opportunities to target premium sports sites and apps, but they are engaging in leisure activities like social media and gaming – prime locations to serve them rich, creative experiences and draw them into your brand story.   

It’s (literally) game time

Nearly 50% of mobile users will engage in playing in-app games while watching the tournament. It’s no surprise that among the App Store’s top 100 free apps, 27 are currently games, most of which fall under the adventure, action and arcade categories.

In our latest App Install Survey from our AdColony division, results revealed that 36% of the top grossing developers advertise on TV as part of their buy. Developers looking to drive user acquisition may want to consider running ads on TV alongside their mobile campaigns to drive downloads during the tournament. Our survey found that 28% of viewers are likely to look an ad up after seeing it on TV, further showcasing the power of taking advertising beyond TV and supplementing it with a digital buy.

We saw this trend take off in 2015 with at least three mobile gaming app ads during the Super Bowl (and three additional ads airing pre-game) and we will continue to see a rise in a complementary TV-digital advertising relationship.

Mobile with the assist

Among those watching the game on broadcast TV, we found that 1 in 4 will check mobile apps and sites for updates related to the tournament. Among that group, 60% will look to sports apps, such as ESPN and Bleacher Report, for game updates.

This demonstrates that mobile apps are where consumers are spending more of their time, a fact Nielsen attested to last year when they reported a 63% increase in time spent engaging in mobile apps. In fact, data from Flurry indicates that mobile users spend on average, 3.3 hours/day with apps and 2.8 hours/day with TV.

What rivalry?

Although this year we should see a big spike in streaming March Madness games on mobile devices, we predict that most users will be watching the games on broadcast TV and using mobile as the ultimate co-viewing companion for additional news, insights and information.

About the survey:

Opera Mediaworks surveyed 800 mobile users in the U.S. across the Opera Mediaworks mobile ad platform in February 2016 to learn how March Madness viewers will be using their mobile devices while watching the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

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