Annually, the first Sunday in November is the TCS New York City Marathon, marking the close of the season of the major marathons. For the first time this year, the marathon was broadcast live on TV, computer, tablet, and phone, including on the TCS New York City Marathon app. As an avid runner and fan, not only has my running improved year over year, but the viewing experience has as well – with the live streaming of the NYC marathon this year highlighting the growth of the sports streaming industry from just a few years ago.
In 2018, my family finally decided to cut the cable cord. Like many families, we enjoy watching sports; as early adopters of cord cutting, we had difficulty breaking up with our cable provider. Due to the limited options for replacing cable sports, we made plans to co-watch sports on weekends with friends. At that time, only 12% of adults were cord cutters, and 20% were sports streamers.
In 2022, cord cutting increased to 29% of adults. Sports streamers currently comprise 33% of all cord cutters and 32% of all adults. In 2018, sports streaming cord-cutters only numbered 6 million adults. Today, these same sports streaming cord-cutters are 24 million strong and growing. Between 2018 and 2022, sports viewership overall grew by 15% (relative to the population) from 141 million to 162 million (57% to 63%) adults. 2022 also saw the number of cord cutters reach 74 million, up from 31 million just 4 years earlier, over a 138% increase.
Sports streaming in 2022 is highly fragmented, with more than two dozen options. For national sports fans who cut the cord, a subscription can start with DirectTV Stream, Hulu+LiveTV, or YouTube TV. In addition, other likely subscriptions for streamers and sports fans alike include Disney+, Paramount+, Peacock, Amazon, or AppleTV to satisfy sports fans’ general entertainment needs. As measured by our recent Sports Study, ESPN leads the streaming pack with 12% of adults, followed by YouTube TV at 10%, Hulu+Live at 9.7%, Amazon Prime Video at 9.5%, TV Networks websites/apps at 8.4%, Apple TV+ at 7.7%, and Peacock at 6.8%. NBA playoff fans that cut the cord have the option of NBA TV, and Baseball fans can choose MLB TV; however, these platforms do not cover in-market games televised locally.
Over the past 3 years, self-reported sports streaming (in the past 30 days) grew 51%, from 53 million to 80 million adults. Breaking down streaming increases by sport, college basketball grew by 23%, boxing by 23%, football (Monday, Thursday, and Sunday nights) by 64%, football (daytime weekend) by 57%, and NHL hockey (regular season) by 36%. With this growth, it is not surprising that streaming giants such as Amazon, Apple, Disney, and Netflix are looking to acquire sports streaming rights. In our most recent Cord Evolution Study, we found that 48.8 million adults said one of the drivers to subscribing to new streaming services is access to sports events that the service streams (e.g., football, soccer, baseball games). In addition, respondents who indicated access to sports events would drive them to subscribe to new streaming services were 52% more likely to currently subscribe to AppleTV+ and 21% more likely to currently have Amazon Prime Video. The intersection between sports streaming and their user base indicates why the companies are willing to invest in sports content for subscriber growth.
For subscribers, this means more access to the content where they want it and when they want it. Streaming platforms have turned content into an on-demand landscape. Advertisers receive a captive audience relying on their phones, tablets, computers, and connected televisions to view their content. Advertisers can become less reliant on network television buys; instead, they may be able to reach consumers across multiple devices.
This year, I streamed the World Cup, and next November you’ll find me running the TCS NYC Marathon. In 2023, I expect my household will pick up another streaming service to watch swimming and soccer, and I hope to improve my marathon pace by10%.
Sources: 2022 November Cord Evolution Study, 2022 November Sports Fan Study, 2019 November Cord Evolution Study, and 2018 November Cord Evolution Study.