Young Sports Fans Favor Web Over TV

Sports-Streaming-on-PCSports fans still love their big screens, but new research indicates the Web is changing how athletics are enjoyed worldwide.   

Across Europe, the Web has surpassed TV as the primary platform for 18-to-35 viewers to watch their favorite sport, according to new research conducted by Havas Sport & Entertainment for the Global Sports Forum Barcelona.

A full 36.1% of this prized demographic sign in online to watch their favorite sport or team play on a weekly basis, compared with just 32.1% who do so on television. This marks a significant shift from a year ago, when similar research conducted by Havas found the Europeans of prime age still preferred their sports on a TV.

Advertisers, content providers, broadcasters, rightsholders and athletes will all be affected, according to Lucien Boyer, President and CEO of Havas Sport & Entertainment and General Commissioner of the GSFB.

“The implications of this are huge and suggest the broadcast sales model for sport needs to be carefully considered in the future,” Boyer warned. “Whilst TV will clearly continue to remain of enormous importance, the younger generation choose to consume sport in a number of ways. The key now is to be a content provider that can satisfy the demands of sports fans across all platforms.”

Stateside, the evidence suggests that more sports nuts are choosing to forgo pay-TV services for Internet services. According to The NPD Group, iVOD users reduced the time they spent watching television shows, news and sports via pay-TV companies by 12% between August 2010 and August 2011.

In particular, the National Basketball Association is benefiting from its embrace of the Web. Last year, reported more than 1.94 billion videos views, which represented an annual increase of more than 140%. The site also saw nearly 5.9 billion page-views -- an increase of more than 35% year-over-year.

Just as consumers are moving online, however, media providers are rethinking their digital business models.

After years of offering college hoops for free -- with ads, of course -- Turner Sports, CBS Sports and the NCAA recently unveiled a new tiered pricing and access model for this year’s on-demand March Madness offering.

Now dubbed NCAA March Madness Live, full access to all 2012 NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Championship games from March 7 to the April 2 finals will run $3.99 across Web, mobile and tablet screens. (Free streaming will still be available on, and for select games.)

Paid or not, the market for digital media and sports marketing and endorsements is increasing.

Exceeding TV ad spending, digital media is expected to reach $77 billion by 2016, according to Forrester. Pro-athlete sponsorship dollars are also rising -- projected to exceed $38 billion by 2016, according to eMarketer.

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