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Report: Pay-TV’s increasing reliance on sports

September 11, 2019

The US pay-TV sector relies more on sports and National Football League (NFL) fans than ever before with 90 per cent of sports fans subscribing to pay-TV, according to a new survey on sports viewership, fandom, and betting by strategy consulting group Altman Vilandrie & Company.

The survey, which polled 5000 US consumers in August on a wide range of sports entities (21 sports leagues, 300+ teams and 400+ athletes), is dominated by the NFL, with 14 of the top 25 top-ranked favourite sports entities to watch coming from the NFL. The NFL was the top favourite league to watch and had five of the top six favourite teams, led by the Green Bay Packers.

Still, the survey shows strong fandom for other sports leagues and athletes: the National Basketball Association has two of the top three athletes to watch in the rankings, with Steph Curry (#1) and LeBron James (#3) joining Tom Brady (#2). Tennis legend Serena Williams is the top individual-sport athlete to watch, ahead of Tiger Woods and Roger Federer. Major League Baseball (MLB) was the second ranked favourite sports entity with the top team overall in the New York Yankees.

Altman Vilandrie & Company also finds that younger viewers (18-24) have many more favourite sports than older viewers and are much more likely to watch the NBA, eSports, fighting (UFC and boxing), and professional European football (Champions League, EPL) than older viewers and less likely to watch the NFL.

“There’s no question that the NFL dominates the current survey but the breadth and diversity of sports interest among younger viewers predicts a shift in the American sports TV landscape,” said Altman Vilandrie & Company Principal Matt Del Percio. “Sports fans now have many more viewing choices than ever and pay-TV providers must find ways to reach new fan bases while retaining fans for traditional sports who subscribe at very high rates.”

Other key findings include:

  • 90 per cent of sports fans who watch sports regularly subscribe to pay-TV, compared to only 67 per cent of sports non-viewers
  • College Football was the third ranked favourite sports entity to watch, with Ohio State beating out Notre Dame and Alabama as the favourite college football programmes to watch
  • NBA fans are motivated to watch superstars, with 55 per cent indicating they tune in for specific players – the most of any league
  • 44 per cent of younger respondents (18-24) selected a sports league other than the NFL, NBA, MLB, College Football, or College Basketball as their “top favourite” league
  • 54 per cent of respondents under the age of 24 identified themselves as frequent or occasional sports gamblers, compared to 17 per cent of respondents over the age of 55+

“The rapid legalisation of sports gambling by states provides an opportunity for pay-TV providers and leagues to attract younger viewers who are literally invested in the outcome of the games,” said Del Percio.


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