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The 2015 NBA Finals, between the Cavaliers and the Warriors, garnered 19 million viewers on ABC, peaking at 24.4 million viewers at 11 pm. This represents an increase of 26% over last year’s game between Miami and San Antonio.

While much has been made over the mobile revolution and the transition to smaller screen sizes, this NBA Finals series between the Cavaliers and the Warriors proves a very important point…

Big Screens Will Never Die

It’s undeniable that the internet and mobile devices have forever changed the way we watch video…

For instance, mobile and digital are, in general, eating away at the traditional TV market:

  • About 26% of customers who call cable companies are requesting “internet only” service.
  • Business Insider reports that digital media is “about to replace TV as the top venue for both audience share and ad revenue.”
  • Business Insider also expects ad spending on web and mobile to eclipse TV by 2017.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports that 58% of TV viewers aged 50 to 59 also had Netflix subscriptions, which represents nearly a 40% increase from the year prior.

And the NBA Finals games are showing a shift towards digital as well:

  • NBA Finals Game 2 generated a record 704,000 views on WatchESPN and an average minute audience of 173,900, the second-largest audience that the platform has ever received.
  • Game 3 set more records for WatchESPN: 736,200 unique viewers with an average minute audience of 207,300.
  • Kobe Bryant, who has 3.5 million followers on China’s social network Weibo, covered the livestream of game 3 for China.
  • Other companies have provided statistics that show a clear trend towards sports-viewing on mobile devices:
  • Statista claims that 89% of sports fans have streamed sports events live to a laptop or computer, 22% have streamed to smartphones, 27% to a tablet, and over half to another mobile device.
  • ThinkWithGoogle reports that 77% of us watch TV with a second screen nearby – that is, within reach of a laptop, a phone, or a tablet. These devices serve as search hubs during games: in the 2014 UEFA Champions Lague match, 63% of searches for games, players, and teams were on mobile.

However, will mobile devices ever replace the TV?

Given the above viewing statistics for the NBA Finals series, it’s highly unlikely.

In fact, the number of viewers who flocked to the big screen prove one salient fact: people love big screens.

When It Comes to Video, Size Does Matter

Publications such as Ad Age have claimed that we’re currently in a third wave of digital, citing convincing statistics such as the fact that mobile is overtaking desktop in digital media spend, digital is overtaking broadcast, and so forth.

And there’s no denying the data. But there’s also no denying the TV viewership of the NBA finals.

So, despite the huge shift towards mobile, people still love big screens. This, almost certainly, is why Netflix has been able to prosper and thrive, while other traditional media companies have failed.

Netflix has managed to ride the digital wave while offering TV viewers the best of both worlds: on-demand media on any screen you want. While a certain percentage of viewers watch Netflix on mobile devices, people will not turn away from big screens.

Instead, big broadcast companies will have to turn away from traditional broadcasting models. Once companies meet the challenges of addressable advertising, the clear advantages of digital video advertising will come into play, such as:

  • Programmatic advertising
  • Real-time bidding
  • Personalization
  • Advanced targeting
  • And so on

In the coming years, broadcast companies, cable companies, and advertisers are able to harness digital technology to reach viewers with personalized ads through TV screens, as well as smaller screens. That, then, will be the major shift to look out for in sports – and other video viewing habits.

Mobile viewability may have eaten away at the big screen’s time share, but only slightly. Nielsen reports that between 2012 and 2014, live TV viewing dropped from 4 hours and 50 minutes per day to 4 hours and 32 minutes per day. Smartphone-viewing increased by 40 minutes per day in the same time frame, along with other digital formats, such as game console use and desktop internet use.

In the past, some feared the death of the TV, but TV – or, at least, TV-sized screens – won’t be dying any time soon.

And when it comes to sports, live TV will always be the viewer’s choice. We will certainly see many changes in the years to come:

  • Cable may give way completely to internet and streaming services
  • Programmatic video ads may completely replace traditional TV advertising
  • Mobile may continue to consume more of people’s internet time

But live TV and big-screen TVs – even if they are projected through augmented reality headsets – will always be a preferred viewing method.