Wednesday, June 30, 2021, 10:57 AM ET|Posted by Will Richmond
Sports has long been considered the “firewall” for pay-TV subscriptions, with marquee events carried by must-have broadcast and cable TV networks. But new research from The Trade Desk shows that sports viewership is increasing migrating away from linear TV and toward connected TVs and streaming. In its fourth “Future of TV” report, The Trade Desk found that 57% of Americans watch sports at least once per week, and that of these viewers, 44% are watching outside of linear TV. The number rises to 65% for 18-34 year olds.
The viewership levels underscore the degree to which top tier sports have begun “leaking” out of the traditional broadcast/cable TV world and into streaming, and also the existential threat to pay-TV if a big chunk of sports eventually moves into the streaming realm. Importantly, The Trade Desk found that just 19% of TV viewers are returning to their pre-pandemic sports viewing mode, with 44% of fans saying they’re watching sports outside of linear TV (65% for 18-34 year olds).
The Trade Desk report highlights sports’ accessibility and success in streaming: the Super Bowl which has been available to stream for many years, received 5.7 million streamers per minute in 2021 on CBS, up 68% from the prior year, Amazon taking over NFL Thursday night football next season, Peacock carrying live Premier League and Champions League final match on CBS and Paramount+, among others.
By far the biggest CTV/streaming sports event is just around the corner with the Tokyo Summer Olympics. NBCUniversal said recently that Peacock will offer live streaming coverage of the most popular events like gymnastics, track and field and U.S. Men’s basketball. The Olympics were supposed to be Peacock’s tentpole launch event before Covid hit, so NBCUniversal is no doubt going to pull out all the stops. Between that and record levels of CTV ownership, there is no doubt that this Olympics will be the most-streamed ever.
The Trade Desk survey of 4,000+ U.S. adults also found that 47% don’t have a pay-TV subscription (which is probably a little higher than other research on the topic) including 60% of 18-34 year olds and 53% of 35-54 year olds. 44% of those who have pay-TV service expect to pull back or cut service within the year. It’s worth noting that intention responses are almost always higher than what actually happens.
Nonetheless, directionally The Trade Desk data provides further validation of what we all know: CTV and streaming are surging, linear TV is dropping, especially for young people and the pandemic accelerated all of this. Another element of The Trade Desk’s research, with 150 ad buyers, found ad spending shifting with the eyeballs to CTV/streaming, with 45% planning to raise their CTV budgets vs. 2020. 92% said CTV is as good, or outperforms, linear TV advertising.
The full report is available as a complimentary download.
Topics: The Trade Desk