Professor Shares Insight into Olympic Viewing Patterns Across Audiences
As the world’s attention turns to the Olympic Games for the second time in 12 months, Kent State Professor Tang Tang’s research offers insight on how audience patterns of viewing major sporting events have changed over the last 12 years.
Tang, Ph.D., joined Kent State University in 2018 as the College of Communication and Information sought to hire in the area of new media technology, and she now teaches in the Schools of Media and Journalism and Emerging Media and Technology. As a researcher of communication in areas such as social media strategies, modern technologies and sports — ranging from Esports to the Olympics — Tang has made her mark internationally.
Related to the Olympics, Tang has researched the effects online activity has on viewership since 2008. She serves as an academic referee for the International Olympic Committee and has given keynote speeches at international conventions sharing her findings.
“My sports communication research has focused on studying audience multi-platform experience during mega-sporting events, like the Olympics,” Tang said. “Most big sporting events have the potential to shape people’s public understanding of other cultures, social values, identities, and can impact our kind of society.”
NBC had more than 3,600 hours of online Olympic coverage in 2008, she said. But four years later, at the 2012 London games, there was a 189 percent growth rate for online viewership. The trend has continued to rise and has led Tang to research other areas affecting viewership, including social media. Tang was interviewed by NPR during the recent Tokyo Olympics about how social media can be a turn-off for viewership because of potential spoilers due to varying streaming times across the globe.
“Instead of thinking about how to make audiences avoid spoilers, think about how to better create a mega-event Olympics appearance for audiences,” Tang said. “How to create those personal stories, how to make people express their national pride, maybe integrate some live games into the programming so audiences can watch live games rather than waiting for 12 hours after everyone else in the world already knows the results.”
Because of the amount of entertainment options, streaming services such as Disney+ are big Olympic competitors, breaking the emotional connection younger generations have to the games, Tang says. She and her team are wrapping up findings from this year and preparing for future tournaments.
In addition to her research on the Olympics and sports communication, Tang has co-authored two books on the topics of social media and media management.
“The Rowman & Littlefield Handbook of Media Management and Business” (co-author L. Meghan Mahoney) poses new practices to traditional methods of the media field and its role in various industries. It earned the Robert Picard Award for Books and Monographs at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in 2021.
“We combined some theory, and we also have a lot of case study examples,” Tang said. “We try to make management really practical, kind of giving us a practical concept, so basic students can learn from those case study examples.”
Her second book, “Strategic Social Media: From Marketing to Social Change,” also co-authored with Mahoney, introduces a similar approach of big-picture thinking as it relates to the social media market.
“What we propose as a book is to go back to communications theories, behavior-trend theories, and to talk about how we can create messages that will attract our audiences, and then make behavior change,” Tang said. “We want to kind of make a connection between marketing and social trends.”
The authors were invited by the book’s publishing company, Wiley, to write a second edition.
Tang speaks highly of the way her fellow faculty train students for today’s media landscape — combining reporting, writing and production skills. In her media entrepreneurship class, she urges students to think big picture.
“I really push students to think big pictures; to think forward – and they feel so uncomfortable,” she says. “I tell them, ‘No, you have the freedom to create a business or create a media product and (you are) going to make an impact.’ It could be just a small impact, it could be a large impact, but anything you can create, you can make an impact.”