« Previous | Main | Next »

Digital Olympics: week one in numbers

Post categories:

Cait O'Riordan Cait O'Riordan | 19:30 UK time, Friday, 3 August 2012

It's the end of the first week of London 2012, a week that's seen record numbers of people accessing the BBC's Games coverage online and across mobile, tablet, connected TV and Red-Button. As data flows in, my team and I have been looking at exactly how the Olympics is being consumed by audiences across devices.

There are three key insights we observed:

  • This is the multi-platform Games : all four screens (PC, mobile, tablet and connected TV) are seeing huge growth in usage.
  • Every event is getting Red Button love : Red Button is proving a hugely popular way for audiences to access any and every event, and we're seeing lots of activity on every one of our 24 streams.
  • Online mirrors TV : as with TV viewing, online activity has peaked around the big Team GB medal moments.

We promised Games coverage that you could access anywhere, any time, and it looks like you've been taking us up on that offer.

So let's have a closer look at the stats.

Overall statistics

Overall browsers to the BBC Sport website, and the 24 Olympic Red Button streams, have built to huge numbers across the Games so far. A total of 17 million people have watched the 24 Olympic Red Button streams for at least 15 minutes, and we have recorded 18 million unique browsers to the Sport Olympics webpages - with a daily peak of nearly 8 million (UK) and 10.4 (Global), compared with the previous Sport site record of 5.7m (UK) and 7.4 (Global).

Cumulative online total rising to 18m online and 24m Red Button

Daily reach and cumulative total (millions, 27 Jul to 02 Aug 2012)

We knew before we started that video would be the heart of our Olympics offering, and the data supports our strategy of ensuring every sport from every venue is available to stream: we've seen 29 million total requests for video content across bbc.co.uk/sport since the start of the Games, and the Sport site has seen an uplift of +80% in daily unique browsers.

Usage across different devices

Browsers across each of the online "four screens" (PC, mobile, tablet and connected TV) have all seen an uplift in daily unique browsers of +70% or more since the start of the Games. The number of people accessing BBC Olympics content on mobiles is huge - we saw a peak of 2.3m mobile browsers on Wednesday - and as of today over 1.5 million people have downloaded the BBC Olympics smartphone app on Android and iOS.

56% from Desktop; 34% from mobile

% of Unique Browsers by Device Type (27 Jul to 01 Aug 2012)

We saw interesting differences in platform usage at different times of the week. Audiences tend to watch more on PC during the week, while accessing coverage across mobile, tablet and connected TV more during the weekend.

More people watch on a desktop during the week.


% of Unique Browsers By Device Type, split between Weekend and Weekday (legend as above)


Peak moments

It's been a thrilling week for Team GB, and there have been a number of large peaks in traffic as audiences switched on to watch the medal wins.

The biggest online video peak we've seen so far was for Bradley Wiggins' win on Wednesday - 729,000 requests online.

Red Button

Wiggins was popular on Red Button too: we saw a peak of 657,200 people watching him win Gold, rather than on the traditional TV channels. However, we get bigger audiences on Red-Button at the weekend when viewers are at home, so the biggest event so far has been the Men's Road Race with Mark Cavendish which drew an audience of 1.3 million.

Red Button Stream peaks at different times of day for Marks Cavendish, Men's Gymnastics, and other events

Number of people watching individual streams (minutes, BARB): minute-by-minute data

Red Button data has proved particularly fascinating with every single Red Button stream seeing at least 100,000 viewers at some point. The chart below shows the percentage of viewing to each stream. We schedule a variety of sports on all the streams, with the most high-profile on the lower numbered channels.

Red button channels 1, 2, and 3  - and Freeview 301 - get roughly 10% of minutes or more. The others gather a few percent or fewer each.

Percentage of minutes viewed per stream (BARB, 27 Jul to 1 Aug 2012)

In summary

  • BBC Sport Olympics webpages see 80% uplift in browsers across PC, mobile, tablet and connected TV
  • So far, 1.5m people have downloaded the BBC Olympics smartphone app
  • BBC Sport website has seen 29m requests for its Olympics interactive video streams
  • BBC Sport website saw 729,000 requests for video of Wiggin's medal win
  • Every BBC Red Button stream drew 100,000 viewers at some point during Olympics week one

How have you been watching?

We should, of course, put all these stats in perspective: the majority of you are enjoying the Games via flagship coverage on BBC1 and BBC3 on your televisions, especially in the evenings. Our broadcast coverage has been breaking records too: BBC TV viewing of London 2012 has beaten the whole of Beijing in the first 6 days alone. 45.4m have watched at least 15 mins of the Games.

So how have you been watching? There's been an amazing amount of buzz on social media about the BBC's digital coverage, much of it suggesting that we really are in a multi-device world.

I'd love to find out how you're enjoying our coverage and what devices you have been using - or if you've had any problems with it. Let me know in the comments.

Cait O'Riordan is the Head of Product, BBC Sport and London 2012

Correction: Monday 6th August 2012. The original post contained an incorrect graph under the heading "Red Button". The correct version was substituted at 4 p.m. Saturday 4th August.



  • Comment number 1.

    Would you be prepared to share browser user-agent statistics at all?

    I think that would be interesting to see how Internet Explorer and Firefox are holding up against Chrome's advance...

  • Comment number 2.

    I am sure that there many interested people like myself who would love to see a program devoted to how you setup and executed the games coverage. Pleas consider it.

  • Comment number 3.

    Graphs are extremely effective to understand the topic. Content is good but i liked the graphs. Extremely appreciable article.

  • Comment number 4.

    Why all this talk of 'red button'? Surely the majority of viewers are from Sky/Freesat/Virgin, and are just choosing the 24 channels from their EPG's?

    Also, I would have thought the numbers connecting via IPTV on Smart TV's are pretty low.

  • Comment number 5.

    The coverage so far has been brilliant! I've watch via 3 screens, my TV, laptop and phone at various points of each day (home and work) and all streams via my laptop and phone have been flawless, no interruptions or any problems streaming - fantastic!

    It's certainly living up to the tagline of a truly digital Olympics, well done BBC!

  • Comment number 6.

    Is there anyway to download the opening ceremony? Would love to keep it and watch back :)

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    how do people without out sky get the 24 channels?

  • Comment number 9.

    @8 get Virgin or watch via the website....

  • Comment number 10.

    @8 and @9 Get Freesat! All Olympic feeds for free. No need for Sky and all 24 feeds in HD.

  • Comment number 11.

    best coverage ever esp colin murray on r5 live

  • Comment number 12.

    Interesting viewing stats Cait... not surprised at how powerful mobile has become for browsing. I guess true media convergence isn't as far off as everyone anticipates. I imagine the low percentage for connected TV is just because of the relatively low penetration - in a few years the picture will be quite different!

  • Comment number 13.

    @Debbie Rockford (#12): I think it's more a question of form factor and availability than of convergence. I doubt people will use browsers more on connected TVs unless the broadcaster offering is significantly more integrated with value added services as that article you mention suggests.

    People use browsers on their mobile because it's accessible and other devices might not be available - it's not really a question of preference in my opinion.

  • Comment number 14.

    @Cait, following from my comment above, it's probably worthwhile producing a time of day view of the browser stats. I'll bet more people watch on their PC during working hours which would emphasise that people generally use the best device available for browsing at any given time.

  • Comment number 15.

    It has been fun watching across multiple devices. Unfortunately the ideal device for watching the extra streams is my Android 4.1 tablet which doesn't work as the Android apps require Flash which is no longer supported on >4.1 systems. If only the iOS streams where available to Android.

  • Comment number 16.

    Been watching through the PlayStation 3 BBC Sport appplication and the coverage is excellent and in HD too.

  • Comment number 17.

    Thanks all for your feedback - it is very much appreciated. Some answers to specific questions:

    @Blue_Phoenix: We are able to keep the Olympic content, including the opening ceremony, available online until 15 January 2013. Because of rights-restrictions we are unable to make it available as a download or keep it online after that date.

    @Pratish: We're working on another blog about the figures for publication next week and will try to dig something out on the time of day switch.

    @Derek500: We get a good proportion of people choosing to watch via red button and people who opt to watch directly through the channels.

    @Alex: Because of the wide range of handsets on the market and the different technologies they use to serve video, we are unable to offer media to all devices. We regularly review the range of devices being used to access the Sport site and aim to ensure the most popular models are able to access as much content as possible.

  • Comment number 18.

    "we are unable to offer media to all devices"

    I'm afraid that's simply not true. You choose to restrict access to some devices, there's no 'unable' about it. As Alex pointed out, the iOS targeted streams would do nicely for Android devices, it's deliberate action at the BBC end that locks the non-Flash Android devices out.

    Your approach is akin to putting on separate broadcasts for every model of new TV that comes along. No-one would even consider such insanity for broadcast - you simply define standards, and then boh broadcasters and receiver makers comply with them. There's no reason to treat the internet differently to the airwaves.

  • Comment number 19.


    "we are unable to offer media to all devices" is probably true because of the conditions placed upon them and not because of the technology involved.

    The security model in iOS is totally different to Android. The content providers have and do place restrictions on how they allow their content to be provided to users of mobile devices. With the slow death of Flash on the Android platform I am sure the BBC will be looking at what alternatives can be used and still meet the DRM requirements that are placed upon them. There are no open Web standards for the transmission of media that has to be DRM encoded.

    The BBC do not provide online content to all connected TVs for the reason that the platforms are manufacturer specific and seem to change annually. So not every new TV gets the same treatment when it comes to online content. In this space there are few standards and the manufacturers appear to see competitive advantage in creating their own.

  • Comment number 20.

    Thank you for your comments.

    Cait has written another blog post now the games are over. To keep the conversation in one place, I am closing comments on this post; please comment there.




More from this blog...

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.