As we explore in our new Trends 18 report (download a free copy here), it seems that sports are no longer immune to shifting viewing behaviors. ESPN, BT and Sky are all reporting some declines for their sports broadcast audiences and it’s now over half who are watching sports coverage online each month. Arguably, though, it’s social that has the real potential to cause ripples for sports broadcasters.
Social platforms already own the commentary that happens around sport. Almost 20% of internet users say they follow sports events on social media, and it’s easy to see how they could also see appeal in watching sports content here too – especially as video continues to take over and as mobile connections improve. To some extent, this transition is already taking place; following Twitter’s announcement that it would stream NFL games during the 2016 season, there’s been a wealth of matches and tournaments streamed on social.
We’re not writing off televised sport just yet, though. There’s still a firm preference for watching games live on a big screen, and for the foreseeable future social media’s role is likely to be to complement rather than replace traditional broadcasters. But there’s signs that things are on the change and rights owners need to recognize that their audience spans a multitude of devices and platforms. If they want their sports brands to become as popular as possible, that’s likely to require a greater collaboration with the social networks.