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Survey: Sports rights remain an attractive market

January 23, 2024

The global sports landscape will continue to be an attractive market for many years, with 61 per cent of sports executives expecting accelerated growth in private investment over the next 5-7 years, according to Altman Solon’s Global Sports Survey. The survey of more than 150 global sports executives and 2,500 sports fans in the UK, US, and six other countries highlights areas of expansion for private equity firms and sovereign wealth funds to invest in the global sports industry. 

The sports marketplace has enjoyed a rapid rise in recent years, with consistent revenues, popularity among advertisers, and loyal fan bases, making global sports a hub for investment and an asset class with significant upsides. Over the past 18 months, the launch of dedicated investment funds focusing solely on sports, from athlete-led initiatives like APEX Capital to funds dedicated to women’s sports, signal even more growth ahead. According to Altman Solon’s survey, 39 per cent of sports executives see institutional private equity dominating sports properties, followed by 35 per cent who select sovereign wealth funds to lead investments in sports.  

Eager for growth, these new investors have quickly launched products and partnerships designed to attract fans, expand reach, and maximise monetisation potential. Liberty Media Group’s 2016 acquisition of Formula 1 resulted in new Grand Prix events in Miami and Las Vegas, in addition to IP expansions that increased revenue and visibility. While investors are typically drawn to established leagues, emerging sports with niche fan bases, like drone racing, are seen as interesting long-shot bets to attract venture capital-style investment.   

“Investment in the global sports industry shows no signs of slowing down,” said David Dellea, Altman Solon Director. “The rise of private equity and sovereign wealth funds across the sports industry –and its surrounding ecosystem – is a testament to the strength of sports IP in a world increasingly dominated by the ‘attention economy’.”  

 Other key findings of the survey include: 

  • European football leagues command strong consumer interest in both domestic and international markets.
  • Interest is highest across all markets for the UEFA Champions League, with 71 per cent of sports fans being “somewhat” to “very interested” in the league. Formula 1 is ranked 2nd, with 52 per cent of sports fans being “somewhat” to “very interested.”
  • The NFL commands less international interest than European soccer leagues, with only 35 per cent of non-US fans being “somewhat” to “very interested” in the league. However, recent efforts to bring the NFL to Europe suggest that there is potential for growing its international fan base.
  • The recent efforts to bring the NFL to Europe suggest potential for growth with a rising international fan base.
  • Top US sports franchises have an enterprise value that’s up to tenfold of their current revenues, while top European football clubs have an enterprise value that’s closer to fivefold of their current revenues.
  • Emerging sports like Super League Triathlon and Gerard Piqué’s Kings League are attracting the interest of 13 per cent of sports fans. 

The survey was fielded by research partners IRIS and GWI and covers eight countries (US, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Mexico and China). 

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