Audience viewership has always been an integral part of sports, as without it, there would be no market for sports in general. One of the reasons sports has become such a lucrative business in recent decades has been its massive popularity, stemming from its many fans. For decades, viewers have been the ones inadvertently driving up the investments in sports, with brands and companies realizing that there was money to be made on something as widespread and popular as sport. The strategy that many major sports leagues and teams employ nowadays is to win over new fans across the globe, broadening their appeal and trying to increase the number of potential business opportunities, and with it, the amount of money that can be made.

What are the key technology trends impacting sports viewership?

The key technology trends impacting sports viewership are rise of streaming, social media, in-game technology, and virtual reality.

Rise of streaming

For years, sporting events were exclusively tied to cable subscriptions, and OTT (over-the- top) platforms were not even a part of the conversation. However, popularity for the latter has soared in recent years. A survey conducted by PwC found that most of the people kept their traditional subscriptions purely to watch live sporting events, and they would have canceled had these not been available.

Social media

Social media networks have become an integral part of sports viewership, with many fans often posting comments and messages while watching their favorite teams play. Platforms such as Twitter and Instagram usually see significant amounts of discussion following big games, and the social media accounts of many teams have begun interacting with fans in unique ways to engage them further.

In-game technology

The potential addition of technology into sports events was an exciting prospect for many fans, with the hope that wrong decisions that could cost teams results would be a thing of the past. However, it has proved more challenging for some sports than others. Cricket is an excellent example of a sport efficiently using technology to reach quick and correct decisions, and part of this is due to the tech having been around for several years.

Virtual reality

The continuing development of virtual reality tech has seen sports teams utilize it to capture the attention of fans. Several years ago, the Boston Red Sox installed VR booths at their home venue, Fenway Park, to allow fans to experience baseball games in closer detail.

What are the key industry trends impacting sports viewership?

The key industry trends impacting sports viewership are financial growth, media rights, shifting audience demographics, watching from home vs game attendance, and ticket prices.

Financial growth

Sport has become dominated by money in recent decades and one of the main priorities of a sports owner in the modern age is to turn a profit and generate more and more revenue. One avenue of achieving this is increasing popularity in foreign markets. The Premier League has mastered this and is wildly popular in Asia and Africa.

Media rights

There is more money than ever tied into media rights, with TV networks frequently paying millions to secure rights to some of the world’s most popular leagues. Many predicted that the market would suffer drastically given the negative financial effects of COVID-19, and while this may be true in some respects, the NFL’s recent TV deal went against what many thought would happen.

Shifting audience demographics

Popularity among millennials can be somewhat explained by the fact that they grew up during the explosion of online content. It is believed that many sports fans also do not necessarily grow up as a fan of specific teams or clubs and instead are more inclined to follow specific athletes. Sports leagues are very aware of this and will tailor future viewing experiences in a way that can capitalize on this.

Watching from home vs game attendance

In the modern world, there are many ways to watch a game. Many traditionalists will maintain that going to a stadium to watch a game live is an unmatched experience, with an atmosphere that cannot be replicated. However, younger generations are actually less likely to want to attend a live game, with many opting to follow from home instead.

Ticket prices

The price of enjoying a live game has often been cited as one of the primary reasons why some fans choose not to go. In the Premier League, many long-term fans have been priced out of purchasing season tickets, with many feeling football is now unaffordable.

Commercial interest

As sports leagues combat dwindling viewership numbers, many broadcasters find themselves in difficult situations. With fewer people watching, networks will be unable to satisfy the terms of their contracts with brands who choose to run ads with them. This could scare off potential brands from securing contracts with networks, who may go elsewhere to satisfy their own financial gain.

Market report scope

Key technology trends Rise Of Streaming, Social Media, In-Game Technology, and Virtual Reality
Key industry trends Financial Growth, Media Rights, Shifting Audience Demographics, Watching from Home Vs Game Attendance, and Ticket Prices


  • This report provides an overview of the history of sports viewership and broadcasting, and how viewing habits have changed with different generations.
  • It identifies the key trends currently dominating sports viewership, broken down into industry and technological trends.
  • Also provided is a look at the botched European Super League, which encapsulates many of the frustrations that modern sports fans have regarding the inflated prices that come with following a sports team.
  • A look at the potential future of sports viewership, and the direction that the sports media rights market is trending towards.
  • A detailed look at the sports viewership value chain, and how different areas of the sector generates revenue and business.

Key Highlights

While sports fans have always traditionally watched sports either live at stadiums or on the TV from the comfort of their own home, the growth of the Internet has opened up many different ways of watching sports. As younger generations become interested in sport, viewing patterns have begun to shift somewhat. Nowadays, many younger viewers are more interested in streaming games online, with many watching multiple games at once. The accessibility with which many can access different events now is a stark contrast to before the turn of the century, where some games just weren’t televised.

For years, sporting events were exclusively tied to cable subscriptions, and OTT (over-the-top) platforms weren’t even a part of the conversation. However, popularity for the latter has soared in recent years, with an estimated 1.2 million people in the US dropping their traditional TV services in Q2 2020. A survey conducted by PwC found that 82% of people kept their traditional subscriptions purely to watch live sporting events, and they would have cancelled had these not been available.

Studies by North American intelligence company Morning Consult have shown that approximately 53% of Gen Zers identified as sports fans, as opposed to 69% of millennials, and 63% of all adults. Additionally, 58% of male Gen Zers said they were sports fans, as opposed to 75% of all adult men.

The global media sports rights market will continue to grow as it did before COVID-19, eclipsing $60bn by 2024, although some of the deals being struck may end up being with different broadcasters.

Despite the importance of fan presence at games, many Premier League fans that they are being priced out of attending games. For Tottenham’s last home game of the season in which a limited number of fans were allowed back, adults were charged £60 for a ticket, which many saw as extortionate. This has been a growing trend throughout the league in recent years, with many hardcore football fans feeling as if they can no longer afford to attend games.

Reasons to Buy

  • For those wanting an in depth analysis of how the sports broadcasters make their money, and the likely future of the industry.
  • Discusses how the landscape of viewing sports has changed forever with the technology boom, allowing viewers to watch live sports from almost anywhere.
  • GlobalData’s thematic research ecosystem is a single, integrated global research platform that provides an easy-to-use framework for tracking all themes across all companies in all sectors. It has a proven track record of identifying the important themes early, enabling companies to make the right investments ahead of the competition, and secure that all-important competitive advantage.

Key Players

Premier League, UEFA, NBA, NFL, Amazon, BT, ESPN, Dazn, NBC, Sky

Table of Contents

1. Executive Summary

2. Players

3. Thematic briefing

4. Trends

4.1 Technology trends

4.2 Industry trends

5. Industry Analysis

5.1 Market size and growth forecasts

5.2 Timeline

6. Value chain

7. Companies

8. Further reading

9. Our thematic research methodology

10. About GlobalData

11. Contact us

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