The rise of sports streaming: Where is it most popular?

Graeme BruceBusiness Data Journalist
March 01, 2021, 10:02 PM UTC

Sports broadcasting is changing. Until recently, OTT (over the top) streaming platforms featuring live events were few and far between. However today, as more and more opt to cut their cable cord spurring the popularity of streaming platforms, that is no longer the case.

Data collection in Global Fan Profiles began on a weekly basis in late November 2020 and so far, has asked more than 70,000 consumers around the world how interested they are in sports. Such a large sample size now allows us to offer robust and relevant deep dives into the titles and franchises people follow, the global leagues and events that catch their attention, the sports teams they consider themselves to be fans of, and the brands that resonate most with them.

Compared to several markets in which YouGov collects data, sports viewers in China are most likely to consume sports via a live stream, rather than on live TV. These results come as digital access to live sports increases in a country which more than 900 million mobile internet users call home.

In many countries, appetite for live sports remains high even if the desire to attend live sporting events is suppressed by the dangers of the pandemic.  Our data shows online sports viewership in Indonesia and Taiwan, for example, is not far behind China. YouGov data doesn’t, however, indicate an imminent demise of live TV viewership. In every market, watching on live TV remains more popular than online streaming and only in Singapore and Sweden does the proportion of TV viewers dip below a majority.

Traditional live TV viewership is highest in South America, including Peru (84%), Colombia (81%) and Brazil (78%), yet online viewership in those markets is hovering at or slightly above average, indicating a healthy appetite for both platforms.

The rate of live-stream sports consumers in many European markets is relatively low. In the United Kingdom, 24% say they stream sports. Similar figures emerge in Italy (25%), Finland (22%), and Spain (28%). Lower numbers appear in Denmark (20%), Germany (19%), and France (16%).

Uptake of live-streaming sports in North America is similar. Just 17% of American fans live-stream sports, as do 23% of Canadians. A little over a third (36%) of fans in Mexico live-stream sporting events.

Taking a closer look at the United States, we can also look at viewing habits of different fan bases. Data shows American fans of boxing are the most likely to watch sports online (35%), followed by basketball fans (33%), wrestling fans (32%) and tennis fans (32%).

Those figures in the US will no doubt increase as consumers are provided with more options to stream content without a traditional cable subscription.

Global fan data, available in 38 regional markets, also reveals how consumers use other media to keep up with sports. About a third of our global sample watch highlights or repeats on TV. A look across age groups shows a steady rate of viewership of TV highlights.

The use of other channels or platforms among sports fans follows typical media consumption patterns among the broader public. Younger consumers are more likely than older people to catch up with sporting events via social media, online, or via a mobile app, and vice versa when looking at newspaper and radio usage among sports fans.

However, live TV remains the lifeblood of the industry with healthy viewership numbers across age groups.

Methodology: Interviews conducted January 1 and 31, 2021. Sample sizes were between 295 and 11,074. The Global Fan Profiles tool is available in the following 38 markets: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Columbia, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, UK, UAE, USA, and Vietnam. All data is nationally representative except for data from: Egypt, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, and India.