The War for Sports Viewers: In the US, Only 12% Prefer Streaming

Despite the rapid rise in online streaming, one area where online takes a backseat to TV is in live sports. CDN Limelight released its annual Digital Lifestyles report today, and it shows that 55.4% of U.S. sports fans prefer to watch on cable or broadcast TV, 32.2% prefer in-person viewing, and a mere 12.4% prefer online streaming. Operators and sports leagues have gone to great lengths to make online sports viewing a richer and more tailored experience, but the area still lags far behind TV.

When Limelight breaks the numbers down by age, it finds streaming is most popular with the young. Of those 18- to 25-years-old, 26.1% prefer online sports viewing. That decreases with each age group. Only 12.1% of those over 60 prefer online sports viewing.

The problem isn’t primarily about streaming quality, however, but about sports rights. Broadcast and cable networks have the rights locked up for most U.S. events, and limit online streaming to their subscribers.

“This makes it difficult for sports fans who do not subscribe to these traditional networks to watch games online,” explains Mike Milligan, senior director at Limelight. “Consumers who have the option to either watch on traditional broadcast/cable or online (which is often delayed up to a minute from the broadcast) will typically choose traditional television because it offers low-latency viewing without the possibility of online spoilers. However, as lower-latency live streaming becomes more common, we expect to see more viewers enjoy the convenience of online viewing to watch on any device wherever they are.”

Limelight’s numbers come from a survey of 4,500 active streamers aged 18-and-over in 9 countries. The margin of error is +/-4%. For more, view The State of Digital Lifestyle 2019 for free (no registration required).

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