Findings reveal diversified media consumption, preference for digital and shorter formats and a drop in linear TV consumption.
Global strategy firm, Altman Solon has released the first edition of its 2023 Global Sports Survey that focuses on changing media consumption patterns. The company surveyed 150+ senior sports executives globally, including rights owners, media distributors, and investors, and ~2,500 consumers interested in sports in 8 countries: US, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Mexico and China. The online survey was fielded in August – September 2023 by Altman Solon’s research partners IRIS and GWI.
According to the report, media consumption among younger generations is more diversified and increasingly online on mobile, social and streaming platforms, compared to older audiences. This has led to fewer average hours of linear TV watched by younger generations (1.9 hours for ages 16-34 vs 2.6 hours for ages 35- 64). Younger audiences are likely to spend 1.5 times more hours online, underscoring the imperative for sports media to provide multi-platform content experiences.
The survey also highlighted a preference for shorter and digital formats. More fans watch sports highlights over live games on both linear TV (87% to 78%) and online (72% to 53%). The results demonstrate the rise of on-demand consumption habits among younger cohorts which will necessitate evolution of content distribution formats to meet preferences of younger fans. To counter the trend away from live game consumption, broadcasters and rights owners are already experimenting with ways to monetise highlights and short-form content. In such a scenario, multi-platform formats can help sports content reach a global audience, as fans from different parts of the world can follow teams and athletes without the limitations of traditional broadcasting territories. More than half (56%) of global sports industry executives expect a gradual continued transition towards a more fluid and athlete-driven fandom.
According to its long-term TV consumption forecast, the report expects average hours watched per week to drop 16% by 2040 as Gen Z and Gen Alpha move into adulthood. The report also states that fan attention is fragmented while watching sports, with fans of all ages multitasking on other digital media while watching
sports (57% browse the internet, 50% use social media, 43% use messaging). Multitasking limited the ability of traditional live sports programs to engage younger viewers for extended periods. The survey suggests that rights owners and media partners prioritise the need to put technology and new partnerships at the centre of an evolving, agile offering (interactive feed, micro-betting, gaming/esports integrations, social engagement).
More than 70% of the global sports industry said that expanding content library beyond live, augmenting live media experiences and personalising content are key to capturing and holding fans’ attention. Executives believed that new content strategies are paramount to building engagement, including expanding available content beyond live games (77%) and delivering personalised content (72%). For 74% participants, augmenting the sports product in-stream is seen as key priority for the sector. They also felt that leveraging new technologies such as Web3, could open new opportunities to build cross stakeholder initiatives that tie rights owners, broadcasters, and sponsors together
The cost of watching games and knowing which channel to tune into are the top accessibility issues across all age groups, with an average of 59% fans reporting accessibility issues. Executives said that a key strategy to better attract fans to live sports is to improve the presence and discoverability of sports content within existing audience hubs. This can be done by enabling content syndication through aggregators (a top priority for 65% of respondents) and improving content promotion strategies (64%).
The reports also finds that media disaggregation has created significant obstacles in discovering and affording sports content (60% of fans find it difficult to access live matches), as it is typically divided across multiple subscription platforms. This has several consequences. For instance, content discoverability, particularly for live events, is hindered for rights owners, making it increasingly difficult to organically reach all audience segments and sustain engagement. Additionally, media companies are facing profitability issues due to lower Average Revenue per User (ARPU) and growing Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC).
The sector is presently in an optimisation phase, exploring various approaches such as ad-supported and pay-per-view offerings, authenticated streaming, and universal where to watch guides to improve discoverability and reduce access costs for fans. In fact, most sports executives think that facilitating aggregation (65%), real-time promotion such as push marketing (64%), and flexible pricing models (58%) should be a top priority for the industry. Yet these efforts only address surface-level challenges; sports media is poised for a significant reconsolidation in content access by 2030, driven by structural changes. The Altman Solon report states that this can happen through audience aggregation and content democratisation.