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Survey: 30% UK plan to watch Winter Olympics daily

February 4, 2022

Half of UK sports viewers plan on tuning into the Winter Olympics this week with female sports fans slightly more interested in the games than their male counterparts, according to a survey by global strategic consultancy Altman Solon.

The Winter Olympics survey was conducted in mid-January with more than 2,500 respondents across the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and the US.

Key UK data points include:

  • In the UK, 30 per cent of fans plan to watch the Winter Olympics daily and 37 per cent near daily.
  • 58 per cent of UK female sports fans are interested in the Winter Olympics compared to 46 per cent of male sports viewers in the country.
  • More than half of the UK respondents (52 per cent) say they will spend the same amount of time watching the Olympics as they did in 2018, while nearly one-third will be watching the games a lot more this year (10 per cent).
  • The majority of interested respondents in the UK plan on watching the Olympics on free-to-air TV (61 per cent) with traditional pay TV service and free streaming being the second (28 per cent) and third (11 per cent) platform options respectively.
  • Downhill / alpine skiing, bobsled, and figure skating are the most popular Winter Olympic sports for UK viewers (21 per cent, 21 per cent, and 20 per cent respectively).

Free-to-air TV still preferred UK platform — and media tech innovation deployed to win eyeballs

About 3 out of 5 UK viewers (61 per cent) will be opting for free-to-air TV to watch the Winter Olympics. Germany, Italy, and France follow a similar trend which is reflective of viewership habits in the European countries included in the study. On the other hand, more than half of US respondents (52 per cent) plan to watch on traditional pay TV.

In the UK where Winter Olympics rights are shared between the BBC and Discovery, coverage will be a mix of streaming and free-to-watch TV. Discovery will offer on-demand content and BBC will supplement BBC1 and BBC2 coverage with a live digital stream on BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website. Both the BBC and Discovery will leverage media tech innovation to boost viewership. Discovery’s Cube studio, including a foray into extended reality, will play a key role in its coverage, while the BBC will showcase its Salford-based virtual-reality studio.

“Unlike other markets that have one rights holder for all Olympic content, rights in the UK are shared between the BBC and Discovery,” says Ian Lube, Partner at Altman Solon. “In order to increase returns on their investments and enhance the audience experience across the vast amount of available content, both broadcasters are making solid commitments to making the content widely available across multiple services. They are also integrating new technologies in their coverage – including extended and virtual reality – all to the advantage to UK sports fans”.

Alpine skiing, bobsled, figure skating most popular Winter Olympic sports

While interest in the various Winter Olympic events varies from country to county, there were some common favourites among the five countries surveyed.

In the UK, alpine skiing, bobsled, and figure skating are the most popular Winter Olympic sports. The fact that figure skating, in particular, wins the US viewers’ interest, while being relatively popular in France and the UK, could lead to a rebound in the sports’ viewership ratings following a downturn in 2018.

Around one-third of respondents in Italy (35 per cent) and France (32 per cent) were also most interested in downhill / alpine skiing, which features some of the biggest stars at the Winter Games, including America’s Mikaela Shiffrin and Italy’s Sofia Goggia.


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