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2021 – In a surreal world of social distancing, the relationships between fans and their favorite artists, athletes, and many more have changed drastically. COVID-19 continues to be on everyone’s mind, with currently no end in sight. Worldwide, 43% of viewers watch more than seven hours of online video content per week. Forecasts for online TV also show a significant increase in global revenue. In 2025, global sales will reach double the 2019 figures.  


Online video consumption is steadily growing and having more time at home is the primary reason for viewers to spend more money on streaming platforms and new services. 


Sports organizers, clubs, artists, and musicians are looking for solutions to offer their audience events despite the current situation and to continue to provide them with the most important thing: Joy & fun while watching, emotionally charged events, and interpersonal interaction, which is almost fallow since the loss of live events. 

Especially in times like these, one principle is continuously the foreground for every streaming provider: finding opportunities to further use digital developments to one’s advantage. 

In the future, streaming services will gradually experience saturation to oversaturation, making audience engagement and involvement essential and more relevant than ever. Everyone wants and needs to make their concert, sporting event, or festival a unique viewing experience to stand out from the competition. 


Here, the question arises: what does virtual audience engagement actually mean?


Audience engagement is the degree to which attendees fully participate in and are captivated by an event. Engagement for live broadcasts can be measured by metrics such as attendance, audience activity on social media, or the use of various tools. Furthermore, engagement can also be measured by clicks, chat room activity, viewing time, participation in polls or quizzes, and more. 

Generally speaking, an engaged participant is a happy participant. The last thing a live streaming provider wants is a group of participants passively going through the event without showing any form of excitement and engagement or even worse, viewers exiting the stream after a few minutes due to boredom. Human attention span is getting shorter and shorter, which is why e.g. so-called “reels” on Instagram or Tik Tok videos are so successful these days. 


But how can this be avoided? Can emotions really be aroused virtually? And what are some ways to get the audience more involved and more interactive? How can live streaming providers make this happen? Is digital transformation really the future of live events? Exactly these and many similar questions are currently being asked by many companies. The most important thing to keep in mind is that society is looking for one thing above all: A sense of community, the chance to meet new people, entertainment and social interaction.


To create authentic relationships, live streaming providers should address exactly these needs of their target audience, especially the growing fan base of young, hyper-digitized fans, and expand the live streaming offering of the events accordingly. Again, first of all, it is especially important that providers fully understand their community. What are relevant topics of conversation at the moment? Which ads might interest fans rather than bore them? How can interactive tools be integrated into a stream in such a way that viewers use them and gain an advantage from that?


By integrating quizzes, betting or loyalty programs, for example, behavioral incentives can be created among viewers. Participation is rewarded, viewers are more actively challenged and thus become even more satisfied. Likewise, features such as a chat forum strengthen the community. Users feel connected and the active exchange with other fans awakens the positive feeling of being part of something. It is important that these are not standard features, but are fully adapted to the respective target groups and streaming content.


Also, it is important to show viewers that you can still be reached. Be it as an artist, athlete, musician – through Q&A tools, surveys, or polls that are built into the stream, questions relevant to the stream can be answered by fans, concerns can be raised and improvements can be made. This shows the fan base that their opinion counts and gives them a sense of security and voice. At the same time, streaming can thus always be optimized to fit the end user’s needs.


Staying up to date and always incorporating technical innovations into streaming offerings is an absolute must combined with truly knowing the wants and needs of the audience and keeping them entertained and active throughout the duration of a stream. This is key to the overall success of a live broadcast!


Resources: Limelight Networks, 2020; Digital TV Research

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