TV rights to grow North American sports market to US$80.3bn

PwC report reveals live sport consumption now industry’s biggest sector.

by Steven Impey

TV rights to grow North American sports market to US$80.3bn

The media’s stake in North America’s sports market is growing at a faster rate than expected and will see the industry worth US$80.3 billion by 2022, according to new industry research.

Media rights holders became the region’s largest commodity last year, according to findings from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) – and is predicted to grow to almost US$24 billion over that period.

In comparison, though gate revenues across the continent are also expected to increase, ticket sales will grow at a significantly slower rate (2.2 per cent annually) – the report projecting a US$21 billion stake in four years’ time.

While sponsorship is also demonstrating promising growth (3.8 per cent), PwC’s 2018 Sport Outlook claims licensing deals within the media will gain the greatest momentum (4.5 per cent) and suggests a shift towards digital platforms.

A digital revolution is 'attracting new entrants into this exclusive competitive space', PwC says, also noting Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google among the major technology disruptors 'putting pressure on sports rights holders to create new fan experiences'.

The report claims there will likely be a shift in brand exposure when broadcast contracts for the National Football League (NFL) and Major League Soccer (MLS) expire in 2022, which is considered a pivotal year when 'both traditional and non-traditional bidders will be looking for content'.

“The story has yet to be told, but what we do know is that there will be competitive bidding for the sports programming pieces that will be out there," said Mike Keenan, PwC managing director. “Competition will drive up licence fees post-2022 and, when you look at it, mobile rights are still complimentary to live TV.

"They are reaching the consumer who isn’t watching on live TV – so, as leagues and teams continue to connect with fans, they are starting to realise that they want to watch sport wherever and whenever they can."

The rights to broadcast games for the National Hockey League (NHL) will also come to an end in 2021, and in 2025 for the National Basketball Association (NBA).