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New ESPN Study Finds That 59 Percent of Sports Fans Want Live Sports to Return

Stephanie Sengwe

The longer major sports leagues remain on hiatus due to COVID-19, the more fans are getting antsy to see them back. A new study by ESPN found that 59 percent of sports fans are not only anxious to see live sports return to TV, but they plan on watching as much as they can. The number is up slightly from the 56 percent of respondents who said the same in a similar study conducted in April.

According to Multichannel, the new study also found that more fans are in favor of professional and college sports coming back without spectators. In the new survey, 78 percent of respondents said they would support resuming sports without fans in the stands. The number is up from 68 percent in April. Only 22 percent of respondents were opposed to the idea.

“The insights we’ve gathered from fans tell us that the value and power of live sports has only grown stronger,” said Laura Gentile, senior VP of consumer marketing, ESPN. “Never have so many sports collided at once. ESPN is, quite literally, the best seat in the house and the only place to catch it all. Pull up a couch! We’re back with the very best live sports and true to our mission we will continue to serve fans every step of the way.”

Just yesterday, a report from The Hollywood Reporter revealed that analysts expect a huge response when live sports fully return later this summer.

Industry analyst Lisa Martin predicted that not only are sports coming back full throttle, but they’re also returning with new fans. Cord-nevers — the demographic of young viewers who have never before subscribed to pay-TV services — are expected to finally turn to cable for their live sports fix.

“We believe that the return of seven pro sports in July and August plus the NFL in September suggests higher linear TV sub adds in the second half, including by cord-nevers, and higher subscriber churn for streaming services,” Martin wrote. “Disney, Fox and ViacomCBS are the companies in our coverage universe that have the most upside from the return of live sports.”

With people flocking to live sports, a lot of churn is expected to happen for streamers that don’t offer live-event coverage. “Streaming services like Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV+, etc. that benefited from live sports being dark have the most risk to their U.S. reported sub adds during the second half, because viewing time will move to sports, which may lower their perceived price/value ratio to consumers,” Martin noted.

Photo credit: Sung Shin on Unsplash

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