Sports programming has always been a centerpiece of the linear pay TV package. Over the past few decades, Sports rights holders have constructed a sophisticated web of media partnerships to maximize revenue without sacrificing the broad audience reach that is crucial to building broader popularity, and developing future generations of fans.
In the past few years, Sports has rapidly become an important part of the video streaming landscape. But even as consumers have embraced these new streaming Sports offerings, much remains unknown about the future. That sophisticated web of deals is difficult to unwind, in order to transition to new digital models; further, the transition is made even more complicated by the fact that about half of American households have linear pay TV, and half don’t, so Sports rights holders need licensing deals that accommodate both groups.
In the Q4 Antenna State of Subscriptions Report, we’re taking stock of consumer subscription behavior to assess the elements of the Sports streaming landscape that seem CLEAR versus those that remain UNCLEAR. To coincide with the release, we’re highlighting two of the several insights featured in the report.
CLEAR: The streaming audience for “Game of the Week” Sports programming is quickly reaching mass scale
Sports rights holders have effectively used licensing deals with big broadcast and cable networks to reach large audiences for select matches each week that appeal to a broad set of individuals, including more casual fans. These deals were important not only because they created big cultural (and advertising) moments, but also because they generated interest among future generations of fans who could be converted into enthusiasts.
Because these “Game of the Week” deals were a crucial part of the economics of linear pay TV, they were not broadly available to cord cutters even a few years ago. Two years ago, fewer than 25 million Americans had subscriptions to a streaming service with “Game of the Week” programming, and a year prior to that, it was under 10 million.
But with the recent launch of a Sports tier on Max, Antenna estimates that almost 50M Americans have access to a robust collection of sports programming on across NFL football, MLB baseball, NHL hockey, NBA basketball, multiple different soccer leagues, and a variety of college sports from just four major streaming services (and only including individuals who specifically signed-up for ESPN+, as opposed to those who received it via the Disney Bundle).
CLEAR: Users who subscribe to an SVOD for live sports can be high-value subscribers
Acquiring subscribers is just half the battle in a direct-to-consumer world; it is also critical to retain them. Conventional wisdom suggests that individuals who sign up for a service to watch a specific show often cancel when they finish that content. But Sports-driven Sign-ups often defy that logic and prove to be more loyal than the service’s benchmarks.
For example, those who subscribed to Peacock around Wrestlemania 37, the beginning of the NFL season in 2022 and EPL Matchweek 1 in 2020 were all better retained than the benchmark subscriber. The biggest delta existed for the EPL cohort—69% of users who subscribed to Peacock around Matchweek 1 were retained—a stark +24pts higher than the benchmark.
If you’re interested in downloading a copy of the full report, you can sign-up to receive it automatically on our homepage. If you’re already on our distribution list, check your email - we’ve sent out a download link to everyone who has opted-in to receive communication from Antenna. For this release, we’re also providing Antenna clients with exclusive access to a client-only expanded version of “State of Subscriptions: Sports” with even more actionable data and insights.
For more detailed information on Antenna’s methodology and definitions of core metrics, please visit http://www.antenna.live/methodology.
Brendan Brady is a Content Strategy Associate at Antenna, a measurement and analytics company providing insight into purchase behavior and subscription metrics across the new media landscape.