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Disney Report: Streaming Grows Fandom in New Sports

Jeff Kotuby

Disney is proving its bet on hockey, soccer, cricket, and other sports outside of the “Big 3” was worth it.

Disney Advertising Sales’ latest report “Generation Stream: Sports Edition” explores, “the behaviors and motivations of sports streamers, identified as individuals who consume sports content across multiple screens and engage with their favorite leagues, teams, and athletes across digital platforms.” The report takes into account live TV, VOD, connected TV, social media, websites, and more. This report examines the future direction of sports broadcast consumption — and there’s a lot of digital media involved.

In order to keep score on how sports fandom is evolving and explore the trends that are defining the future of TV and sports, Disney’s presented ‘The Scorecard,’ the first installment of Generation Stream: Sports Edition, which serves as a snapshot of sports streamers. Insights range from how sports streamers are identifying with eSports to a deep dive into ways people are extending their sports experience in different ways. It also shows that streaming sports fans are willing to try out new sports, which is great for less casual sports that are looking for a broadcasting home.

Three key insights that emerged:

  • 93% of sports streamers say social media benefits their sports viewing experience.
  • 86% of sports streamers say that the past year changed the way they watch sports.
  • 68% of sports streamers have become passionate about a sport they didn’t have access to before streaming.

We’ve seen the cosmic shift of sports fans embracing streaming first hand, as report after report has emerged over the past year showing that fans are flocking to live TV streaming services and even platforms like Paramount+ and ESPN+, too. ESPN recently reported that ESPN+ hit 17.1 million subscribers, a figure that has been steadily climbing since its launch in 2018. As ESPN's linear networks continue to lose subscribers, it’s crucial for ESPN+ to pick up the slack, so to speak.

Meanwhile, Paramount+ added over a million subscribers in one week, likely spurred by a deal with T-Mobile that gave users a free year of the service just for being T-Mobile customers. To be fair, though, Paramount+ has certainly upped its content offerings, especially in the sports department. Subscribers can stream live NFL games in their market through the app and the company seems to announce a new rights deal with a different soccer federation every week, most recently adding the Barclays FA Women’s Super League to its roster.

Browser-based live video production suite Graybo found that 79 percent of global sports fans would watch online streams of sporting events exclusively if they could — and kick TV to the curb.

We’ve also seen reports that fewer sports fans start and finish entire games, opting for crucial moments like 4th quarters and key plays such as a long 3rd down in football or a penalty kick in soccer. Buzzer, the brainchild of former Twitter head Bo Han, is capitalizing on this idea and offering short clips locked behind microtransactions, featuring highlights from the NBA, NHL, MLB, and more.

Disney will continue to offer more insights into the sports streaming future through additional reports.

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