10 JAN 2024

Live sports ignites streaming growth in the United States and Europe

A study from Kantar’s Entertainment on Demand has provided a picture of how viewers around the world choose to watch sports across both pay TV and video on-demand.

10 JAN 2024

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Sports is a universal language which has huge global appeal, and the potential to create powerful engagement. A study from Kantar’s Entertainment on Demand has provided a picture of how viewers around the world choose to watch sports across both pay TV and video on-demand (VOD). It reveals a rapidly evolving landscape, within which fans are shifting to streaming, and preferences are always changing.


One in five new streaming subscribers are motivated to sign up to see the sports they love. And they like variety. In the United States, for example, American football has the biggest influence on the decision to subscribe, but the same household might also watch soccer, tennis, basketball, and even rugby.

Consumers are also interested in sports content that stretches beyond live action, with major growth in documentaries and dramas which help ensure subscribers feel they are getting value all year round. Bringing behind-the-scenes stories to life builds a wider audience for live sports, and strengthens engagement with existing fans. Netflix’s Formula One documentary "Drive to Survive," for example, has attracted F1 fans to the service while growing the sport with millions of new viewers globally.

Whatever the platform, if the viewing experience is not satisfactory the subscriber will disengage with all the content they receive, which is likely to lead to cancellation. Acquiring the right content simply is not enough to secure long-term loyalty, the report notes. Delivering value is also important, as nearly one in three households that have a video streaming subscription acquired it as part of a bundle deal or promotion that has “something for everyone.”


A huge 95% of sports fans in the United States stream VOD, while cable TV (pay TV) penetration has dropped 8% in two years. In this highly saturated market, streamers must work to understand what does and does not drive satisfaction. It is the same story in Europe, where sports rights are becoming more fragmented. Kantar’s data shows that access to a variety of sports is the top driver of satisfaction in both the United STates and Europe, while the biggest pain point is the quality of commentators and pundits.


Unlike in the United States, there is plenty of headroom for growth in Europe: of the 22 million households that identify themselves as sports fans, six million do not currently subscribe to any VOD service. As a consequence of fragmentation, European fans spend a lot of money on watching sports on VOD and/or pay TV, with the average bill standing at €88 per month. This is an investment they are willing to undertake, which makes them a valuable audience to target, according to Kantar.

“To gain competitive advantage, sports service providers must track and adapt to changing patterns of consumer behaviour. This requires a deep understanding of attitudes, preferences, and consumption habits,”  the report concluded.