It's Time For Major Sports Leagues, Platforms To Seek New Audiences

Many of the big sports TV franchises -- the NFL, the NBA, Major League Baseball, NHL and PGA Golf -- continue to focus on one demographic group, mostly older male viewers, when it comes to advertisers.

What if much of this were to change -- especially in a world where incremental TV gains are tougher to come by?

In an upcoming wild-card playoff game, the NFL is looking to explore this -- adding Disney-ABC’s young, female focus cable network, Freeform, to its group of main sports networks -- ESPN, ABC, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes.

This isn’t to say young viewers, particularly women, haven’t been interested in sports. Big-rated NFL games draw can draw sizable number of female viewers.

In the recent two-week period, NFL games pulled in women viewers representing 42% of its total audience, according to For the last two months of its regular and post season, Major League Baseball, pulled in 40% of its total viewers from women.



Traditional sports TV/media platforms need to ramp up efforts -- especially as young viewers seek new sports-related content, such as esports on the internet and on TV.

Separately, Amazon continues to stream NFL games on Thursday night. We don’t have specific data. But generally speaking, virtually all traditional TV content moving to streaming platforms post a higher percentage of younger media consumers.

All this comes as many of the sports TV franchises -- starting in August/September after months of pandemic delay -- were hit with massive 30% to 40% declines in sport TV viewership.

The NFL, the biggest sports TV franchise and largest TV program in terms of average viewership, is in the process of negotiating a new long-term TV sports contract among its TV networks partners. It outlines what is still expected to be big sports fee increases.

With this hanging over TV executives, you can be sure all will be seeking ways to lift revenue -- by whatever means -- and grow their audiences, of all types.

3 comments about "It's Time For Major Sports Leagues, Platforms To Seek New Audiences".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, December 2, 2020 at 10:24 a.m.

    An interesting subject, Wayne. One of the main problems faced by  MLB and the NBA, but  not so much by the NFL, is their need to feature extended regular season game schedules in order to amortize the huge rights fees, pay off the leagues and help sponsors to acculumate eyeball "impressions" as a counter to ever rising CPMs. Fact is that many of the regular season games are not only meaningless---as far too many teams now make the post season playoffs---but the athletes  are often not giving their best. So why should such games attract new types of viewers---especially younger, better educated viewers who don't have that much time to devote to unimportant game telecasts?

    There are other issues---such as the politicizing of the games, which offends certain segments of the fan base---and the ways that the players---some of them, at least, behave---such as a guy scoring a touchdown when his team is trailing by 35 points and dancing a "hurrah for wonderful me" jig in the end zone. Is that going to appeal to new viewers?

    Another problem is the slow pace of the games---too many fouls called in basketball and no defense; long, tedious, baseball games with instant replays slowing the action down to a crawl. Is this the kind of product that can be sold to a new ---demographic or mindset type of fan? I tend to doubt that.

  2. Dan Ciccone from STACKED Entertainment, December 2, 2020 at 10:25 a.m.

    As long as major sports franchises continue to cut deals with linear partners and limit streaming/digital access, they will continue to lose audience.  The model has been broken for years.  The leagues are chasing quick media deal $$$ with major networks vs. modifying their deals to incorporate digital access.

    Doesn't make any sense that as more young people cut the cord (which they have been for the past 10 years) that the major sports leagues keep cutting deals with cable networks and broadcast TV whee the audience is shrinking.

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, December 2, 2020 at 10:44 a.m.

    In support of Dan's point, if you track the median age of TV sports viewers, they have been steadily rising---as shown in our upcoming edition of "TV Dimensions 2021"----just as the network's primetime audiences have been aging. But if the leagues grant more quality product---not games nobody watches---to digital platforms will they dilute their still significant  "linear TV"  content distribution base, thereby compromising their  revenues? Also, many advertisers buy into TV sports "sponsorships" not so much because of audience size  or demos but for other reasons---like establishing their brand as the NFL brand, or creating an image and enhancing tie-ins with sports personalities they pay big bucks to to promote their products. And what about taking the sales force, or key clients and other "influentials" to the games your brand is sponsoring? Can you do the same thing if the games are seen on a smartphone or desktop PC?

Next story loading loading..