Sports Fans Are the Bridge Between Traditional and Digital Consumption

In today’s fragmented content environment, broadcasters and television programming providers face tremendous pressure. Those providers are being challenged to reinvent their business models in a way that delivers personalized, immersive experiences to viewers, while accounting for the fluid nature of the digital landscape. Furthermore, viewers are absolutely ravenous for content (especially when it comes to sports), from online streaming to network companion applications – there simply isn’t a ceiling on how much they will consume.

There are few viewer segments that capture the digitally integrated nature of modern viewing like the sports fan. Fervently passionate for their teams, they continue to practice “appointment television.” They exist in the perfect cross-section of viewing experiences, relying heavily on traditional cable packages for access to games, while augmenting that with statistics, context, and information available via digital and mobile channels.

In fact, CSG recently commissioned a study of over 2,000 consumers across the United States and United Kingdom specifically focusing on how sports fans are engaging with content across platforms. The Digital Future Report: Sports Streaming Edition found that 71 percent of global fans watch sports through cable subscriptions, as opposed to live streaming or other digital options. Yet, while they prefer more traditional methods of consumption, digital is playing a key role in the experience. The study also found that 42 percent of fans use social media and websites to keep tabs on other concurrent games, and 37 percent are using these same resources to find relevant game stats.

For broadcasters, understanding the sports fan as a mix between tradition and innovation is an incredible opportunity. One that can inform how they build programming, digital interfaces and offerings to best meet their expectations. For example, despite the fact that cable subscriptions reign supreme in terms of access, that doesn’t mean sports viewers enjoy every aspect of the traditional service. Taking a page from other digitally native viewing services, sports fans are advertising averse. When asked what types of services they’d be willing to pay more for, one in five would pay extra for less intrusive advertising. Furthermore, if given the option to tailor their viewing package, 32 percent would also want less intrusive ads. By working with advertisers, there’s an opportunity for broadcasters to work in this information seamlessly, in a way that doesn’t interrupt the experience like its current format.

There’s also the integration of next-generation technologies into the sports viewing experience to consider. There are already examples of broadcasters looking to augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to create more immersive experiences at home. It’s important to understand, however, the viability of leveraging these as a way to drive revenue currently breaks down on generational lines. Of those polled, 69 percent of consumers aren’t interested in VR/AR as part of the viewing experience. But when you look at Gen Z and Millennials, that figure partially reverses – 44 percent are interested. As this cohort of fans grows, alongside their purchasing power, next-gen enablement is a long game, so to speak.

Regardless of which team captures the heart of the sports fan, how they engage with games is critically important to understand. Influences outside the realm of sports, like mobile streaming and OTT capabilities are shaping viewing expectations in their own way. Keeping them involved and immersed requires acting as a partner, offering the most deeply personalized experiences that bridge the next wave of innovation with the traditional communal experience. That open line is how broadcasters will stay ahead amid rapidly changing viewer preferences.

For more findings from The Digital Future Report: Sports Streaming Edition, check out our latest infographic: Defining the Digital Era Sports Fan

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