Research shows sports bodies must diversify ‘beyond pay-TV’

Sport is consumers’ most popular video genre among all age groups, study claims.

by Steven Impey

Research shows sports bodies must diversify ‘beyond pay-TV’

Global sports properties have been urged to move away from pay-TV exclusivity to maximise their audience growth, on the back of research that shows younger generations are increasingly favouring digital and social video content.

The 2019 Global Video Trends Report by the cloud video specialists Grabyo claims that sport provides the most popular content for video consumption across all age groups whilst ranking linear broadcast TV as the third choice for watching video, with direct-to-consumer (DTC) and premier social media options growing in demand.

Of those surveyed, 52 per cent of the bell-weather ‘Millennial’ consumers stated that they would consider cancelling pay-TV subscriptions altogether within the next five years. That is significant as those between the ages of 26 and 35 have grown up with the opportunity to compare digital services with traditional media by inheriting media consumption habits from their parents. 

That usage pattern for Millennials, which exceeds even the rate for the younger 18 to 25 generation, suggests that sports properties need to shift distribution models to maximise audience growth.

Whilst the report states that sports remain the most popular live category, for rights holders to capitalise on its regard as a video content genre - it scored a leading mark of more than 42 per cent popularity in every age category – the increasing trend for cord cutting suggests they should look beyond the exclusivity on pay TV.

The report concludes: ‘The move to online streaming and social media does not signal the immediate death of TV, but it does signal what needs to change.

‘Consumers want video services which are low-cost, available everywhere with a usage model that allows audiences to escape the TV schedule if they choose.’

On the social video consumption front, in the primary markets surveyed - the US, the UK, Australia, and Europe - YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram lead the way, with data in Europe indicating that social video penetration and usage is higher than OTT.

Meanwhile, the data also shows that social video is accelerating the adoption of OTT services, with 42 per cent of consumers between the ages of 18 to 25 stating that they have looked to purchase online subscriptions to a streaming platform after watching social ads.

The report indicates that YouTube remains the sports rights holders optimum platform. The Google-owned property is the most prevalent social media site for video consumption. The platform’s audience tends to watch more long-form video content, while three in ten users say that they want to see more in-depth sports highlights on the platform.

The report also claims that, while consumers prefer to watch specific shows or major events on TV, user feedback shows that the majority of casual viewers favour digital platforms, with 25 per cent of the market electing to view video content on a smartphone.

Across all genres, 50 per cent of the consumer market pay for a video service online versus 42 per cent who buy pay-TV video content, while sport represents the most-viewed video content for an average 46 per cent of the total marketplace.

The report added: ‘Much of the commentary about changing media viewing habits has focused on younger segments, the millennials and Gen Z. The results of this study show that mobile, social and online viewing is not restricted to younger demographic groups.

‘All audiences under the age of 50 show a preference for OTT and mobile video. Flexibility, price and quality matter to consumers, something which is harder to deliver with the restrictions of linear TV.’