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Survey: Sports viewing evolves as live TV declines

A survey of 2,000 people in the UK and the US undertaken by FTI Consulting in association with video management company Imagen has shown that we are a nation of sporting fans, with 8 in 10 respondants watching sport at home or on mobiles, and over half doing so at least once a week.  What’s more, the average person watches three different sports dispelling any myths that loyalties are tied to one team or one sport.

Live television is in decline, as the proliferation of mobile devices has transformed how we watch sports content.

Viewers now spend 60 per cent of their viewing time on non-live television; which is particularly the case with the 18-29 year old age group. Technology has disrupted the model when, as little as 5-10 years ago, people would have planned their days around watching their favourite teams live on television.  Instead, the flexibility offered by advances in IP delivery and affordable mobile devices means they can play catch up – watching sporting action anywhere, and at any time.  This has resulted in most UK viewers now watching sports on an average of five different devices in the home, including 6 in 10 of us using our smart phones.

Strikingly however the UK and the US regularly watch recorded sports content, with tennis a surprise hit. 

Some 45 per cent of people in the UK and US watch historical sporting action at least once a month, and a quarter at least once a week, with some watching it considerably more regularly. Notably both countries were most inclined to watch major sporting events, followed closely by sporting highlights and sporting victories, showing our clear appetite to keep re-living special sporting moments.

In contrast however – and as you might expect – there are differences in the types of sports UK and US audiences enjoy watching, although interestingly, in the US, football (40 per cent) is now watched almost as much as American football (44 per cent).  Perhaps surprisingly, after football, tennis is the next most watched sport in the UK, followed by F1 and then rugby. Whilst achieving the smallest viewing audiences, more niche sports such as hockey and volleyball are still watched by 2 per cent of UK households – a figure which is likely to continue to increase as they are more readily available to watch on television.

But, in spite of new cutting edge technology, demand for access to good quality footage of recorded and historic sporting content is not being met.

Just under half of the respondents in the UK and US said they would be likely to search for historical video clips of sports following the Olympics, showing its legacy lives on.  Flexibility to catch up on top sporting moments on demand is noted as the biggest draw for 30 per cent of the UK population.  Tied into this, we are willing to pay to access sports content on an app, with half of 18-29 year olds prepared to spend up to £10 a month for this.

However there is a huge mismatch as, in spite of this demand, a staggering quarter (26 per cent) wouldn’t know where to look to find their favourite historical sports content; whilst 25 per cent are deterred by poor visual quality of the footage.

Futureproofing our sports content is key.

Well over three quarters of the UK population (83 per cent) want sport to be digitised for future generations, with 7 in 10 claiming that lessons can be learnt from watching past sports events.  These huge numbers show the desire not to lose historic sporting moments – those big wins, phenomenal come backs, impossible trick shots, Championship successes – with brands allowing safe access to archives a key element of this.

Tom Blake, Commercial Director of Imagen said: “Demand for sports content would appear to be at an all-time high, with evolving consumption patterns placing a challenge at the door of rights holders and traditional broadcasters.  As demonstrated in the US, fans are increasingly subscribing to both live and archive content to be streamed directly by the clubs and federations. In the UK consumers would be willing to spend on viewing their favourite sport given access to do so.”

“There is a fantastic opportunity for rights holders, including the more niche sports, to capitalise on these trends by making more content available at all times and in the process protecting the legacy of their sport.”

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