Reports Media & Marketing

US and UK Sports Fans Reaching Digital Natives

Report by Alistair Taylor
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The 20,000 Foot View:  Sports as a product is feeling the squeeze of the peak attention economy. Sports fans in the traditional sense are ageing, and appealing to a younger digitally-native audience is a fundamental issue that rights holders can no longer ignore. Sports rights holders have realised the importance of their virtual (gaming) counterparts, acknowledging that they are taking much of the attention of a large proportion of their fanbases, but also nurturing expected future fans who do not interact with the real-life version of sports. Key to this dynamic is the current spread of distribution deals—which makes viewing fragmented and expensive for fans, due to rights holders’ legacy approach to award rights to the highest bidder regardless of reach. Sports are rapidly losing future fans to e-sports and gaming in general – now is the time for traditional sports to fight back.

Key Insights

US sports franchises lead the way in addressing reach over revenue, with the NFL acknowledging in September 2018 that models should target reach over revenue in this digitally-transformed landscape. Opening up rights distribution to social and digital platforms domestically is fundamental in targeting younger audiences, who do not engage with pay-TV offerings – something UK rights holders will need to adhere to going forward.


  • UK sports            are ageing: only            of viewers            the English Premier League (EPL)            aged            while            are over           
  • Just            of            olds watch live sports on           
  • Games franchises            not always drive engagement: FIFA            are less likely than overall            to watch live sports on            by            percentage points
  • Sports games            drive streaming:            of FIFA players            Amazon Prime Video weekly average            (WAUs), compared to            of EPL           
  • Soccer fans            relatively young: the EPL has            younger average audience compared to            and rugby viewers in            2019,                       years old relative to            and           
  • Digital footprint            in addressing digital natives: wrestling            an average audience of            years            down largely to digital pioneer           


  • Football and            fans are maturing: only            of            football and            of baseball viewers            aged            while            and            respectively are                      
  • Just            of            olds watch live sports on           
  • Basketball has            digital natives’ attention:            of basketball            are aged            with            over            illustrating            benefits of basketball’s diverse distribution            strategy
  • Gaming helps            engagement: Madden NFL and NBA            are            and five percentage points            likely than overall consumers to            live sports on TV
  • Basketball fans            evenly split across age demographic:            has the youngest average audience            the US in            2019 at            old, compared with            for both            football and baseball, and            for            hockey

Companies and brands mentioned in this report: ABC, Amazon, Amazon Prime Video, Coupe de la Ligue, DAZN, Disney, Disney+, English Premier League, ESPN, ESPN+, FIFA, FIFA, Hulu, La Liga, Madden NFL, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, National Football League, National Hockey League, NBA            NBA            League, Pro Evolution Soccer, Take Two Interactive, Tencent, Thursday Night Football, TNT, Twitch, WWE, YouTube