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Study Sees a Generational Shift in How Fans Watch Sports

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The streaming era is bringing big changes to sports viewing, finds a study by video management platform Imagen, which sees young people watching different sports and watching them in new ways.

News 1In an online study of 1,866 sports fans in the U.S. and Canada, Imagen finds young people are far more likely to watch non-game video content: 25% of Millennial and 23% of Gen Z fans watch 3 or more hours of non-game video content per week, while only 16% of Gen X and 6% of Baby Boomers do the same. Young fans often watch this non-game content on a second screen during a live game to enhance their viewing experience. Non-game content might include stats and player information, behind-the-scenes clips, funny moments, and archived videos.

As they get older, will young people adopt more traditional sports viewing habits, centered around live viewing on a big-screen living room TV? Imagen says no.

“We see these habits as lifelong," says Ryan Rolf, CRO, Americas, at Imagen. "The behavior identified from Gen Z fans is reflective of a wider movement where interactivity, convenience, and flexibility are prioritized by younger generations when making entertainment choices. The concept of 'big screen viewing' is more likely to shift as lines between linear and on-demand blur even further. Networks and online publishers need to be brave in pushing the new and opening up the old.”

Major League Soccer fans watch more non-game content than the fans of other major sports leagues. That's partly due to their younger average age, and party because of a smart strategy by MLS.

“While all leagues have made strides in evolving their content offering—MLB’s Twitter deal and the NFL’s TikTok partnership, for example—MLS stands out as having baked this more directly into its growth strategy, which has involved extensive fan profiling and market research to specifically target superfans," Rolf says. "A key growth area that all leagues should embrace is cultivating relationships with influencers. While star players will always have a critical role, there are a whole host of other profiles from nano-influencers upwards who can play a big role in winning over new supporters and strengthening brands.”

For more results, download "Switched on Superfans" for free (registration required), then visit the Esports and Sports Streaming Summit in Los Angeles Nov. 19 and 20. 

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