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Australia: Should Netflix, YouTube acquire sports rights?

December 9, 2015

Eighty per cent of Australians (aged 14+) watch sport on television, data from Roy Morgan Research shows – from every last match of a code from pre-season to grand finale, the odd perusal of a Pyrenees peloton, to a fascination with figure skating once every four years. So as Free-to-air networks and Foxtel spend billions to shore up sports broadcasting television rights into the next decade, can (and should) Netflix and YouTube join the field?

Australians 14+ who have a Netflix subscription or visit YouTube are only slightly less sports-mad than the general population, with 77 per cent and 79 per cent respectively citing one or more sports they almost always or occasionally watch on TV.

Netflix subscribers are 25 per cent more likely than the average Australian to watch Super Rugby, and also more likely to watch FIFA World Cup football (+18 per cent), English Premier League football (+16 per cent), AFL pre-season games (+15 per cent) and the Winter Olympics (+10 per cent).

However Netflix subscribers are, compared with the norm, also more keen on some niche sports with fewer than a million potential TV viewers overall (and so perhaps with obtainable broadcasting rights), including Ice hockey (+76 per cent more likely to watch), Triathlons (+17 per cent), Surfing (+12 per cent), Australian NBL basketball (+9 per cent), and Iron Man contests (+7 per cent).

YouTube has become mainstream with around 3 in 5 Australians visiting in an average four weeks, but there are nevertheless some distinct differences between its audience and the norm. Visitors to YouTube have an above-average interest in soccer, being around 20 per cent more likely than average to watch the English Premier League, FIFA World Cup or A-League.

And as with among Netflix subscribers, some niche sports also have an increased fan-base among YouTube’s audience: they more likely to watch American league sports Basketball (+18 per cent), Baseball (+17 per cent) or Football (+14 per cent), Snow skiing/Snowboarding, (+16 per cent), Ice hockey (+16 per cent) or Surfing (+12 per cent).

Tim Martin, General Manager – Media, Roy Morgan Research, says:
“Over 2.6 million Australians aged 14 have Netflix in the home, and around 11.5 million watch YouTube in an average four weeks. Generally, Netflix subscribers and YouTube viewers are less interested than other Australians in golf, swimming, horse and greyhound racing, motor racing, athletics, and cricket. But other sports do appeal to their current audiences, and could well be a drawcard.

“There are so many sports and events around the world that don’t enjoy billion-dollar battles over the rights to broadcast them. Governing bodies need to be proactive in pitching their value to media owners. In a fragmenting media landscape, niche content, including sport, can find a place with distributors who don’t need to reach mass audiences across limited channels at certain times of day. For YouTube, 10,000 unique Australian viewers of 1000 videos is a bigger combined audience than for the Olympics. For Netflix, it’s about offering content so each unique subscriber can find $10 a month worth of entertainment.

“Aside from sport, one other type of content that Netflix in particular could consider delivering is some form of news. Our on-going research over the first six months since Netflix launched shows that its subscribers are around a third more likely than average to be interested in watching international news and current affairs on subscription or pay TV.

The SVoD on-demand distribution model clearly caters to binge-watching and casual browsing. But perhaps the risk is that subscribers can power through available content they want and then be left with no reason to continue. Whether through a once-a-week upload of a topical news and current affairs show (such as HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver), or broadcast rights to seasons of sports, such content could keep audiences signed up month in, month out.”

Categories: Articles, Consumer Behaviour, Content, Markets, OTT, Research, Rights