Image: Getty Images

Image: Getty Images

APEX Insight: IMG’s Sport24 channel satisfies the cravings of air-traveling sports fans.

Video on demand means the days of having to plan an evening around watching a movie or TV show have largely disappeared. But premium sports events are among the few remaining experiences in which an entire mass audience watches the same thing, at the same time. For fans of the NFL and European soccer who want to experience the action as it unfolds, the excitement of watching the Super Bowl or UEFA Champions League final depends on having access to a live broadcast.

According to research by Nielsen, sports events accounted for 93 of the top 100 live TV broadcasts in 2015, compared to only 14 a decade earlier. Spotting an opportunity, IMG launched Sport24 in 2012 to satisfy the cravings of sports fans who want to watch a game at 35,000 feet by offering the only 24-hour sports channel specifically for the global air travel and cruise markets.

“Fans globally still have a huge desire to watch sport as it happens.” – Richard Wise, IMG Media

“Sporting events are the last bastion of appointment-to-view television,” says Richard Wise, senior vice-president at IMG Media. “Fans globally still have a huge desire to watch sport as it happens, unlike other content, which in many cases can be watched on video-on-demand systems whenever convenient for the viewer. This is a testament to sport still driving huge audiences through traditional TV.”

IMG’s portfolio of air rights includes top-tier sporting events from FIFA, the English Premier League, Bundesliga, UEFA Champions League, NBA and NFL. The Rio 2016 Olympic Games, UEFA Euro 2016 and 2014 FIFA World Cup were also broadcast on the channel as they happened.

So far, Sport24 is available on more than 400 aircraft across 13 airlines. Wise says his company works closely with its airline partners to ensure passengers can view a wide selection of sporting events. “We have a dedicated production team that works across schedules and cross-references with our regional offices as well as market data to understand the most relevant and popular event to schedule,” Wise explains.

In the summer of 2016, IMG launched a second channel, Sport24 Extra. This additional channel gives passengers who can’t decide what to watch the ability to view two events at the same time through second-screening – one event can be displayed on a seatback inflight-entertainment system and the other on a tablet or laptop connected to the aircraft’s Wi-Fi.

Sport24’s most-watched sporting
events won’t come as a shock – around 40,000 passengers tuned in for 2014’s FIFA World Cup Final, while the 2016 Rio Olympics garnered around 16,000 in-flight viewers per day.

“Live on Air” was originally published in the 7.2 April/May issue of APEX Experience magazine.