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Analyst Predicts Return of Live Sports Will Attract Record TV Viewers, Including Cord-Nevers

Stephanie Sengwe

The phrase “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone” is getting some new merit. With the coronavirus shutting down all major sporting events back in March, analysts expect a huge response when they fully return later this summer.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, industry analyst Lisa Martin predicts 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+], 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.

“A majority of sports fans we surveyed don’t consider films or television series as substitutes to pro sports competitions, so sports programming is the cornerstone of the $150 billion revenue per year traditional U.S. pay-TV bundle. Emotionally, sports represents a large shared-interest community with the authenticity and unpredictability of live events, enhanced by a clear winner and loser at the end of play.”

Martin’s analysis is consistent with the results from an ESPN Research & Insights study conducted back in May. The study found that found that fans were open to the prospect of watching live games without spectators.

According to the study, not only were fans planning on consuming more sports-related content once games resumed again, but 65 percent said they were open to watching basketball, hockey or baseball games with empty stadiums. Only 35 percent said they believe sports should resume when fans can attend games in person.

Photo credit: Sung Shin on Unsplash

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