Sports fans are the biggest consumers of pay television

The majority of people who pay for television do so to follow sports according to a recent national survey. Suprising? maybe not. But it underscores the value of live sports in a fast-changing media world.

Each year, more sports channels are created and added to cable TV or internet offerings, many appealing to niche interests. From The Tennis Channel to e-sports streamer Twitch, each shows the importance of live programming for fans. A survey from Altman Vilandrie & Company, a strategy consulting group, points to the fact that most sports fans choose to pay for television to follow their favorite sports.

In the survey, 90 percent of sports fans pay for cable or satellite television services or a streaming platform. In the same survey, only 67 percent of non-sports fans will pay for television access.

“Sports viewing continues to be primarily through traditional pay television services,” Matt Del Percio, principal of Altman Vilandrie & Company. The consulting group is a firm that has specialties in media and technology.

“Many consumers have subscribed to online services such as MVPD services [like] YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV for access to live programming as well as sports streaming services but these services have a lot fewer subscribers relative to pay television services.”

The NFL dominated the viewership demands of sports fans in the survey, much as it dominates television ratings. MLB, college football, NBA then the NHL rounded out the top five of leagues that fans follow in their viewing.

How sports viewership is shaped moving forward is ripe for speculation. Younger fans, those identified in the survey as between 18-24 years old, are moving away from the traditional sports that have dominated the landscape the past five decades. In their place, these young fans are embracing emerging sports and leagues.

Of those surveyed in this age group, 44 percent didn’t identify a favorite league from among the top five in the overall survey. New ventures such as eSports, UFC and soccer have gained traction among this young viewership.

And while sports fans have a shared passion to view games and athletic events, not all fans have the same motivation. Some follow certain teams or a certain league but star power still has its place, in particular in one league. The NBA, fourth in the survey in terms of fan interest, sees its viewership-driven by stars. Of those who identified themselves as NBA fans, 55 percent said they tune into a game to see a specific player.