The world’s top 15 sports leagues will command $66.9 billion in global media rights by 2028, representing an 8.9% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from this year’s projected $43.8 billion, according to a report from Rethink Research.
Although the costs of sports rights are “clouded by hysteria and hype,” media rights revenues (MRRs) more than doubled between 2014 and 2023, notes Rethink.
The largest 15 leagues will see varying rates of MRR growth over the next five years. The National Basketball Association (NBA) is projected to lead, with a CAGR of 26.3%, to reach $13.5 billion by 2028. Major League Baseball (MLB) will see the slowest growth, at a CAGR of 1.2%.
The report attributes the growth rate to a combination of current streaming and pay-TV industry dynamics.
“More so than any other content vertical, live sports seems to be the definitive means by which our industry values a video service,” it notes. “With live sports comes a captive fanbase that are willing to jump through hoops to watch the games, as well as one or two zeitgeist moments of the calendar year which will draw astonishing traffic to whichever service is playing host.”
At the same time, “desperate” pay-TV platforms continue to vie to keep their legacy sports rights because they view them as “the final hurdle preventing their dubious customers from churning exclusively to the streamers,” ReThink observes.
If the "desperate" pay TV folks realy think that without sports they will lose virtually all of their subscribers---as is implied by the quote from ReThink, then they are idiots. Yep, there will be some losses, though this process will unfold in piecemeal fashion---unless all of the sports jump exclusively to streaming at the same time---which is not likely. And let's not forget that if or when a broadcast network or cable channel loses the rights to carry one of the pro league's events---it will replace that content with much, much, much cheaper programming and probably sell its commercial time in such shows at a far greater profit margin than it gets with its high cost, high CPM sports GRPs.
Also, approximtely 60-65% of the average minute pro sports viewers are males---it's the highest male skewing audience composition of any major TV content genre. Sure, some women are also fans but, on average, pro sports is a mostly male viewer venue and this also mitigates against massive cord sutting rampages across the nation if, say, one league---the NBA?---were to defect from pay TV. Women watch more TV than men and they will take up some of the GRP slack while most of the lost viewer audience tonnage will be male "impressions".
It remains to be seen how this plays out. I expect the pro leagues to create more viewing options which they can sell to streaming services and others who are willing to pay through the nose to get their hands on just about any kind of sports content. But it may not be so easy for the streamers to wrest all of the pro leagues' prime content away from linear TV on an exclusive basis.
It amazes me how so many people confuse the fact that the NFL, mainly, gets the top ratings--which they interpret as meaning that pro footbll---and, to a lesser extent, other sports attractions ----are all that pay TV subscribers care about. Yes, the NFL scores high individual game ratings but in terms of total time spent with TV these few instances are a drop in a huge bucket. The bucket is filled to the brim with news, game shows, talk shows, documentaries, detective shows, medical dramas, sci-fi dramas, sitcoms, reality fare of all descriptions, movies, etc. etc. and collectively these dwarf pro sports in terms of total time spent by pay tv households---and even their menfolk---though less so than their females.