14 NOV 2023

What is clear and what is still unclear in the sports streaming landscape?

In its latest report, Antenna took stock of consumer subscription behavior to assess the elements of the sports streaming landscape that seem clear versus those that remain unclear.


In the past few years, sports have rapidly become an important part of the video streaming landscape. But even as consumers have embraced new streaming sports offerings, much remains unknown about the future, Antenna assured in its latest report, which took stock of consumer subscription behavior to assess the elements of the sports streaming landscape that seem clear versus those that remain unclear.


According to the report, the first thing that is definitely clear is that the streaming audience for “Game of the Week” sports programming is quickly reaching mass scale. Antenna noted that sports rights holders have effectively used licensing deals with big broadcast and cable networks to reach large audiences for select matches each week that appeal to a broad set of individuals, including more casual fans.

At the same time, it is also clear that live sports programming can be a meaningful driver of user acquisition for streamers. In fact, Antenna data indicates that some of the biggest moments in streaming user acquisition have occurred around live sports programming, particularly for Peacock and Paramount+.

Moreover, it is also clear that users who subscribe to an SVOD for live sports can be high-value subscribers. Conventional wisdom suggests that individuals who sign up for a service to watch a specific show often cancel when they finish that content, but sports-driven sign-ups often defy that logic and prove to be more loyal than the service’s benchmarks.

Regarding targets, Antenna data indicates that live sports are attracting younger audiences across a number of different platforms and fan types. For instance, one in three sign-ups to NBA League Pass during the last full season period came from consumers aged 18‒34 years old. In fact, NBA League Pass earned half of its sign-ups from users below 45 years of age – more than six points higher than Antenna’s US Universe.


The most important thing that remains unclear is how “hometown fans” will be addressed in streaming. There has been much news about the future of regional sports networks and how sports fans will watch their local teams’ games in a post-linear pay TV world. One potential model, according to Antenna, is a DTC streaming service operated by the RSNs, and Bally Sports+ is a pioneer in that space.

Another topic to consider would be whether the Apple/MLS model is replicable. A few months ago, soccer star Lionel Messi joined the league. Messi’s debut with Inter Miami drove the largest acquisition week for Season Pass – over four times the number of sign-ups than the product received in the opening week of the season, and it also sustained strong momentum for a number of weeks after. However, there is only one Messi, so midseason acquisition spikes are not likely to be the norm for sports services in the future.

Lastly, Antenna analyzed ESPN+ and noted that the platform's subscribers surged after it was included in The Disney Bundle, but it was unclear whether the service was capable of significant scale as a standalone entity. In 2020, Antenna estimates that 58% of ESPN+ sign-ups came from the bundle.

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