Live sports decaying popularity among Millennial viewers is worsening

By Jim O'Neill on Nov 14 2016 at 7:00 AM

Live sports have always been seen as a major edge for pay-TV operators, as its been the slowest to transition to operating over-the-top on a game-by-game basis, and hasn’t been beset by the disruption experienced by traditional operators and broadcasters.

But that comfort may be temporary, according to a new report from Ampere Analysis, which says its 12-month survey of 32,000 consumers in the U.S. and U.K. shows that younger viewers are far less likely to care about sports on TV than older ones.

“Young millennial identification with strong sentiment questions is lower for sport than it is for other forms of content,” reported Richard Broughton, research director at Ampere. “Just 14% of consumers professing to ‘love sport’ are in the 18-24 age bracket, compared to 22% of those indicating that they ‘love TV shows’.”

The decay in Millennial sports viewing first became apparent during the 2016 Rio Olympics, when NBC Universal reported viewing numbers across the board.
The NFL also is experiencing an abrupt decline in its ratings this season, with virtually all of its schedule down, in many cases, by double digits.

Ampere found that just 11% of young Millennials (18-24) said sports was their favorite content genre, compared to 45% of viewers over 45.

Millennials were far fonder of movies and TV series.

“The shift in perception of sport among younger consumers should ring alarm bells for traditional media companies reliant on high value – and increasingly high cost – sports rights,” Broughton said. “Pay-TV operators thinking of cutting back spend on TV and movie content to protect budget for sports rights may want to think again. Younger consumers are turning off sport in favor of scripted and social video content including comedy, sci-fi, romance and action & adventure. Clearly, a ‘one-size fits all’ content strategy will not last as a pan-generational plan.”
Attracting younger viewers to live sports is critical to leagues, broadcasters and operators, otherwise they’ll face (and they already are) the unenviable task of convincing brands to pay top dollar for an audience that is decreasing in size.

Stay tuned.

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This article originally appeared in The Drum.