Eurosport, the broadcaster, is using biometric measurement to better understand viewer engagement and to build a benchmark database with different sports.

Susi Thorimbert, head of research at Eurosport, addressed this topic recently at Qual360 Europe, a qualitative research conference organised by Merlien Institute.

She explained how it is a challenge for all broadcasters to keep viewers engaged throughout a live sporting event – and in the context of the Tour de France, that might mean five or six hours coverage of a single stage.

Previous efforts at understanding engagement have generally relied on questionnaires that feed back into future coverage. But this approach demands of viewers a post-event rational response to what is an in-the-moment emotional reaction to what they see in front of them.

So, during a two-hour slot in a mountain stage of last year’s Tour, Eurosport hitched up 75 viewers to a palm-held device that measures galvanic skin response and heart rate and that allows viewing to take place in the participants’ normal TV environment. (For more details read WARC’s report: Eurosport taps biometrics for improved sports coverage.)

By measuring emotional reaction in real time, Thorimbert aimed to gather in-depth, second-by-second measurement of emotional engagement with the content on screen, in order “to specifically understand which race moments are driving higher interest and which moments attract less attention from viewers.”

The results not only helped the editorial team understand how certain camera angles, for example, added tension and excitement, but also helped build trust with external partners, like cable and satellite distributors, for example, or advertising and sponsor partners, that Eurosport is reaching the target audience.

“We will continue to use this type of biometric measurement to build a kind of benchmark database with different sports,” said Thorimbert.

As well as cycling, her team has just finished a similar research project based around tennis and coverage of the Australian Open in Germany, and during the Olympics is planning to measure several different sports.

“It’s a scalable technique we can test on further content with the same respondents to make it cost effective,” she said.

Sourced from WARC