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Pay TV Is Losing Even More Sports Fans to Streaming Services, Survey Says

Jeff Kotuby

Another day, another report of sports fans embracing streaming and ditching cable — but not just in the US, anymore.

Graybo, a browser-based live video production suite that works with sports and social media entities to distribute OTT and digital content, recently published a full report about the state of sports video trends in 2021. They 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. While that number lowers to 64 percent when we look at just the United States, it still reveals a majority of those surveyed would cut the cord on cable and watch via online streams exclusively, which should indicate to cable companies that changes need to happen soon.

By 2026, Graybo’s data suggests that the broadcast TV market will only have a 28 percent customer share of global sports fans. “Broadcasters and sporting rights holders must begin
prioritizing their video strategies to match what fans demand,” the company said. We’ve seen this already start to occur with the recent NFL and NHL broadcasting deals including much in the way of streaming content. The MLB also lessened its schedule on ESPN’s linear platform in favor of ESPN+ when they negotiated a new rights deal with ESPN. We’ll also likely see NBA’s League Pass, its own dedicated streaming platform, factor heavily into their next rights deal.


ESPN+ is a live TV streaming service that gives access to thousands of live sporting events, original shows like Peyton’s Place, the entire library of 30 for 30, E:60, The Last Dance, as well exclusive written analysis from top ESPN insiders.

The service can be subscribed for $9.99 / month per month or annually for $99.99 / year.

You will get a daily out-of-market game from MLB, and every out-of-market NHL and MLS game with NHL.TV and MLS LIVE.

The service has some of the most attractive soccer coverage including Bundesliga, LaLiga, FA Cup, UEFA Nations League, EFL Championship, EFL Carabao Cup, Eredevise and more.

College sports fans will be able to watch thousands of games and events including football, basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, track & field, gymnastics, swimming & diving, lacrosse, wrestling, volleyball, golf, and more.

For boxing and UFC fans, the service offers Top Rank boxing and will be the home of 15 exclusive UFC events.

ESPN+ now includes exclusive insights from analysts like Mel Kiper and Todd McShay (which used to be part of ESPN Insider), as well as premium Fantasy Tools & PickCenter.

What it does not include is most live sports that air on ESPN and ESPN2.

To get access to those channels you have to subscribe to a live TV streaming service. We suggest reading our guide on How to Watch ESPN without Cable.

Fans are also turning to social media for their sports content, including YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter. While we’re used to seeing clips or highlights on social media, Graybo found that 65 percent of fans want to see more live sport and live events broadcast to social platforms. With fanbases distributed around the world, live social video enables
broadcasters to create audience-driven content, encouraging participation with polls or
displaying user-generated content and social media comments on a broadcast. Broadcasting on social media would also help to avoid pesky rights deals from interfering, where fans located in different parts of the world would be shut out from joining in on the fun because of rightsholder interference.

The social aspect of sports is spilling out into the teams themselves, too. We’re seeing instances where teams, especially those part of smaller leagues, are taking matters into their own hands and introducing their own dedicated streaming services. Inter Miami CF recently launched a full-fledged interactive broadcasting experience within their team app, including in-video watch parties, where fans can invite up to 8 friends to watch a live match together, live chat, real-time stats, and social engagement — all built into the app. Orlando City SC also launched an app this season where fans within the market could watch matches without a cable subscription.

You can check out the full report from Graybo here.


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