Insights

Demand Trends for Sports Content

30 April, 2021

The past year has been both disruptive and transformational for sports content around the world. With the core offering of live sports cancelled or severely disrupted due to the pandemic, audiences have had to look beyond the usual places to fill this void while savvy platforms have found ways to attract these fans open to new ways of getting their sports fix. Here we look at the trends in demand for sports content over the past year.

There has been a growth in demand for Sports content over the past year:

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Over the past year, the demand for sports content (in this analysis - sports documentaries, episodic live sports, and sports related series like sports talk shows) has outpaced the growth in demand for non-sports content. However despite this growth, the total demand for sports content we measured still accounts for a small fraction of global demand for all content, hovering between 1-2% over the past year.

In the timeseries above we can see how enormous global demand around particular events in the past year has boosted the total demand for sports content. In particular the weekly release of The Last Dance formed a noticeable peak in demand for sports content. The start of the Formula One World Championship at the end of March drove increased demand for several series about motoring sports.

What shows in particular do audiences demand?

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Over the past year, WWE Monday Night Raw was the most globally in-demand sports show. It had 39.17 times the demand of the average series. It was only the success of The Last Dance over the past year that prevented WWE series from clinching the top 3 spots, a testament to the incredible popularity of this franchise.

We can further break down sports content into sports documentary series and all other sports shows. Each category accounts for about half the titles in this analysis:

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While The Last Dance was a breakout success this year (it was the most in-demand documentary series as well as the most in-demand new show globally in 2020), generally sports documentaries are less popular than other types of episodic sports content. While these documentary series account for approximately half (48.6%) of sports titles in this analysis, they drive only 29.8% of demand for sports content.

Looking at demand for sports content by sport type reveals some surprising results:

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The incredible popularity of wrestling series is apparent in this comparison. While only accounting for 12.1% of titles in this analysis, these shows make up 43% of global demand for sports content. This is largely driven by the WWE franchise which has multiple shows that are highly in demand.

Demand for soccer series surprisingly underperforms expectations. Over a fifth of titles we looked at are related to soccer, but these drive less than 7% of sports demand. The proliferation of soccer titles is due in part to countries and leagues each having their own soccer shows. This drives the share of titles up, but many of these shows are not globally popular outside of their home market.

Unsurprisingly, the grouping for all other sports makes up a large share of titles but does not drive a major share of demand. Sports represented in this category tend to be niche and appeal to narrow slices of the global audience. Fishing, skateboarding, and various winter sports are just a few of the sports represented here.

Motoring sports perform slightly better than expected. Their 19% of titles accounts for over a quarter of sports demand. Interestingly, American Football is heavily overrepresented in terms of the number of shows compared to their global demand. This likely indicates an American skew to the content being produced, which doesn’t translate to global audiences. For example many of Netflix’s sports series (eg. Last Chance U, Coach Snoop, QB1: Beyond the Lights) look at American football.

Streaming Platforms have been attempting to get a piece of the sports action as a way of attracting subscribers and keeping them coming back for more. Below are the digital original sports series that have been successful in the past year:

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Motoring content has done well for streaming platforms. The top 2 digital original sports series for the past year are motoring sports shows from Amazon Prime Video and Netflix. Amazon Prime Video has been particularly successful in this space. Four of the top ten digital original sports series are from Amazon Prime Video. The platform’s All or Nothing series has done well. The past year’s look at Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur have attracted global audience attention. It is surprising to see two cricket shows in the top ten, one looking at the Australian National team and the other following the Mumbai Indians.


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