Millennials dump traditional media channels for sports viewing

16 May 2017 5 min. read
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Millennials spend less time watching traditional television, which is is making it more difficult for established sport broadcasters to rely on them as regular viewers, a new study suggests. The paper from L.E.K Consulting considers where traditional sports television purveyors may be able to create interest among millennials, as networks bid to secure a new generation of viewers for their product.

For decades, televised sport has been a key medium through which teams have derived an increasing portion of revenue - as well as through which they won and kept the hearts of new supporters. New technologies and changing consumer sentiments however, particularly among millennials, and are creating a new environment in which those former 'truths' may no longer hold.

In a new report from L.E.K. Consulting, the management consulting firm explores key changes in consumer sentiment, as well as what companies can do to attract and retain millennials to sports. The report is based on a survey of around 1,700 consumers.

Time spent consuming various forms of media content

Millennials have a somewhat different profile, compared to earlier generations, when it comes to consuming various media forms currently on offer. Traditional television does not garner much favour with the group, with just 13% of the total time spent consuming media, spent on traditional television compared to 32% of the time for older generations. Consumers do continue to watch media however, although they tend to do so through paid and free OTT online video services, at 20% of total media consumption time compared to 9% for older generations.

Generation Y also show considerably more interest in video games and recorded content, at 12% and 9% of total time respectively, compared to 7% and 4% respectively for older generations. In terms of absolute numbers, the groups show considerable differences in how they interact with television, with a sustained decline in viewing time among millennials. Respondents 65+ have increased their per-day viewing to 450 minutes, while millennials in the 18-to-24-year group have seen viewing times, since 2010, decrease by 4.7% a year, to less than 300 minutes, while among 25-to-34-year-olds view time is down 2.8% per year to around 250 minutes per day.

Preference for favourite eSport vs. favourite traditional sport

Losing fans

According to L.E.K's analysis, a reduction in time spent watching traditional television may have negative consequences for sports viewing. 30% of respondents said that one of the reasons they became sports fans was because it was made available on traditional television mediums, which is equal to the 30% that said that playing a sport as a child connected them with sport viewing.

Aside from millennials becoming less likely to be in contact with sports as they move away from traditional television channels, so traditional sporting types are coming under competition from a new sporting medium: eSports. Many of such sports are born from competitive, team-based, video games, such as DOTA2, Starcraft and League of Legends.

When asked what sports medium the different groups preferred, 34% of all respondents said that they significantly prefer their favourite traditional sport, although this is skewed at 45% of non-millennial respondents to 27% of millennial respondents. While for those whom significantly prefer eSports, millennials stand at 27%to 13% for non-millennials.

Appeal of a sports-specific digital subscription

Moving fans

The firm, as part of its research, also considers ways in which traditional sports view purveyors might be able to access millennials with traditional sports related content. One option the firm considered is a sports-specific subscription product in the OTT space.

The research notes that interest among millennials for such a service is relatively robust, with 58% seeing it at least appealing (6 or 7), and few finding such an option unappealing. Among non-millennials considerable less interest was shown by respondents, while for millennial avid sports fans, considerable more interest (70%) in such a service was shown.

Fantasy football as means of attracting millennials

The firm further finds that some of the new digital and eSport related media and mediums may provide a pathway towards more traditional sporting types. For instance, the millennial group is particularly more interested in playing fantasy football, at 46% of respondents in the group compared to 15% of non-millennials. The effect of that engagement is positively correlated to increased interested in NFL football, with 56% of respondents saying that they spend more time watching actual NFL games.

“All of these platforms are new and they present challenges," according to Gil Moran, Managing Director in L.E.K.’s Sports practice and a study co-author. “For example, daily fantasy sports have faced legal and regulatory challenges, and are just starting to recover. But given their appeal to millennial fans, traditional sports organizations should consider engaging with them to determine which ones work best to recruit the next generation. In fact, the NBA recently announced a partnership with Take-Two Interactive Software, makers of the highly popular NBA 2K video game, to form an eSports league based on the NBA 2K series.”