Will streaming services and social platforms take over sport?

The rise of streaming services has been well-documented yet consuming sports content on demand has seemingly had minimal traction. But this landscape is about to get busier and more competitive – new streaming services such as UK-based DAZN and China’s Le Sports are starting to buy rights to show major European and American sports leagues on their platforms – a concerted effort to build an audience of sports fans through meeting a need for on demand sports content.

Not only are over the top (OTT) services now making waves in sport, but social platforms are getting involved too – Twitter and Snapchat have both secured deals with the National Football League (NFL). So how will these market developments influence the future of sport? We take a look at consumer consumption of sport and social media across some key markets to understand how the sports and media industries are evolving in response changing media consumption.


Consuming sport has recently become a lot more accessible thanks to a number of market developments:

  • In August, Snapchat revealed it would have Live Stories dedicated to NFL matches for every game in the 2016/2017 season.
  • Le Sports streaming service beat China’s Now TV for exclusive National Basketball Association (NBA) rights and raised $1.2 billion from investors in March this year so will look to enhance their offering for their user base.
  • In July, Twitter announced two exclusive weekly shows for the NBA and also publicised in April that it would be showing 10 Thursday night NFL games live through the current season for free globally. The social network has also recently released a video app on Xbox, Amazon Fire and Apple TV to make this opportunity easily accessible and will help maximise audience numbers.
  • Facebook looked to unlock the potential of a big user base by partnering with Wayne Rooney/Manchester United in the summer to show Rooney’s testimonial game live on Facebook.

So why are social media platforms entering the foray? Our data highlights how there is a strong social media following amongst sports fans across key markets.

Let’s take football as an example – the sport has a strong following in South Korea with 60% of the population being fans of the sport. Out of these fans 21% of them use social network platforms to consume football content. In the UK, even though a lower percentage of the population are football followers (44%), 25% of those fans use social media for sports content.

Looking at the USA, they have a strong following of American Football and a healthy social media usage to match. Nearly half (49%) of Americans state that they follow American Football and nearly a third of these fans use social platforms for consuming such content (31%) which has grown 4% since November 2015. Whether or not the NFL deal with Twitter will increase this further remains to be seen but it may be good for engaging current social media users.

With the NBA also penning a deal with Twitter, we looked at the numbers in Turkey and Spain, two markets with a high basketball following. Turkey fans are extremely engaged on social media, with 46% of the population being basketball followers and 38% of those fans using social media for basketball content! Spain, however is a different story – 39% of the population are basketball followers but only 17% of them consume basketball on social media platforms.

Anticipating audiences’ needs

Undoubtedly, streaming services and social platforms are here to stay and their relationship with the sports industry will only continue to strengthen. The likes of Twitter and DAZN are driving this change – they recognise that consumers want sports content delivered across the platforms they use in a convenient way, as demonstrated by our insights.

For sports rights holders, this is an exciting time (not least, with the chance to engage with untapped audiences) but also makes decision making increasingly complex. The key for sports rights holders is to truly understand their audiences and the differences across markets, anticipating how, where and why they want to consume sports content. Only then can the right commercial decisions be made for the benefits of brands and sports fans alike.

Source: Kantar Media Sportscope study, 2016

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