Vertical Video Is Changing the Way We View Sports

Vertical Video Is Changing the Way We View Sports

Vertical video is popping up everywhere, from social media to sports leagues. (The term “vertical video” is a reference to any video that is formatted for a portrait versus landscape layout.)

Vertical video used to be a cringe-worthy blight that plagued viewers on YouTube and Facebook. In 2010, only five percent of a user’s average viewing time was spent watching vertical video. By 2015 it represented 29 percent of viewing time, and that number has since grown with the explosion of vertical video platforms like Snapchat and Instagram.

It is easy to forget that the smartphone as we know it now is barely 11 years old. The iPhone debuted in 2007 and was designed to be held vertically. That original design has percolated throughout the smartphone industry and is the reason why we see so much vertical video today. Apps like Snapchat and Instagram are specifically designed around the vertical orientation of the phone.

One reason for vertical video’s surge in popularity is surprisingly simple: People are kind of lazy when it comes to their phones. Instead of reorienting their phones horizontally to view a video in full, 94 percent of people would rather hold their phones vertically when watching a video.

This has created a huge opportunity for social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram. Why flip your phone sideways when nearly everyone is filming vertically these days?


Why Is the Vertical Video Trend Growing?

Brands are jumping on the vertical video bandwagon, and for good reason. It’s estimated that by 2020, the number of digital video viewers will reach 2.5 billion.

Snapchat boasted that full-screen vertical video ads were seeing nine times higher completion rates than their horizontal video ad counterparts. The Washington Post found that the average vertical mobile user watched over half of their fifteen-second video campaigns.

Since vertical video utilizes the whole screen, the user is more engaged with the content. Phones are naturally oriented vertically, and it is easier for brands and creators to film vertical videos. Overall, vertical videos seem to be more engaging, intuitive, and natural for the user.

Don’t get it wrong, though—horizontal viewing is not going to fall by the wayside. This is simply another example of how the mobile device market and surrounding social media ecosystems are maturing and finding innovative ways to engage the marketplace.

Most people agree that shooting movies vertically is simply the worst idea ever. But what about other entertainment media like sports leagues?


The NBA and Vertical Video

The NBA has strived to be ahead of the game when it comes to social media marketing trends. Their foray into livestreaming their games in the vertical video format exemplifies that effort.

Many fans watch basketball games on their mobile devices, with 70 percent of fans watching games via the NBA League Pass available on mobile devices. The NBA’s first step was to offer highlight packages designed for the vertical view on mobile. They found that these vertically formatted highlight packages outperformed traditional horizontally formatted highlights by 250 percent!

With their first vertical video experiment a success, the NBA decided to push the limits of what they could offer on mobile. This past year, the NBA started shooting their games in both the 16×9 format and the 9×16 format.

In layman’s terms, they started optimizing their broadcasts for both horizontal and vertical formats. The idea was to provide zoomed-in views of the action and focus on the ball movement, so it would be easier to see on a mobile device.

For this year’s NBA Summer League, the NBA and ESPN ramped up their offerings by providing four different broadcast options: SkyCam View, Summer League Live, Dueling Analysts, and Hometown Call. The league also produced two full games in the 9×16 “vertical view,” which is optimized for mobile phone viewing.

On July 10th, the league produced the Jazz v. Heat and Kings v. Grizzlies matchups in the “vertical view” format and broadcast it on their NBA League Pass app. The production rarely used the center-court game camera that shoots horizontally, but they relied upon novel camera angles in order to fill the entire 9×16 frame of your mobile device. Early reviews found that Asian audiences, in particular, were highly engaged with the new “vertical view” format since a majority of users only watch games on their mobile devices.


A New Trend in Sports Viewing on Mobile

These new broadcasting options represent an emerging trend in sports leagues to experiment with video game-style viewing options. The NFL recently experimented with the “Madden Cam” as the main viewing angle for their “Thursday Night Football” broadcasts on NBC. The NBA’s own “SkyCam” is based off the popular NBA 2K games, which shows a vertical axis along the court. This view, for both the NFL and NBA, provides a much better view of the entire playing field/court and was popularized by each league’s respective video game franchises.

These options represent an exciting move forward for the world of sports on mobile devices. Sports leagues commonly innovate with TV format viewing technologies; now sports leagues are looking into ways to innovate on the mobile vertical video front.

The SkyCam and Madden Cams represent that first step forward. These cameras make mobile viewing much easier because they show the whole field in a 9×16 format.

The beauty of this format is the plethora of material it produces for the league’s social media channels, so the leagues can further expand their reach beyond just live games. The NFL may soon make a push with vertical video too, but the NBA seems to be ahead of the game when it comes to mobile video streaming.


Why Is Vertical Video Important for Your Brand?

Many brands could brush off this vertical video trend as another fad that’s destined to become a black hole for marketing budgets. Yet, the proof is in the pudding: More and more platforms are adopting the vertical video as their standard view. If you want to create immersive content that turns a social media user into a customer, vertical video ads are the best way to engage your audience.

There are going to be 2.5 billion digital video viewers in the world by 2020. Ignoring the mobile market could be a death blow to your business and marketing goals.

A trademark characteristic of the internet and mobile markets is that change takes place quickly, so something that seems like a trend may actually be the major way forward in that market. Vertical video is that major way forward and what mobile video experience was always meant to be. If men who dribble basketballs for a living can embrace it, then you can too!

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