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Study: Sports fans want all games online — and they’re willing to pay for it

A person watching Sling TV on an iPAd.
From Netflix to Amazon, cord cutters have an exploding selection of programming options these days, allowing them to all but swear off traditional TV. However, live sports — something that can be hard to find outside of traditional TV packages — continues to be one of the biggest draws for many viewers. A new study conducted by the Center for the Digital Future at USC Annenberg and ThePostGame suggests that 63 percent of sports fans would be interested in a forward-thinking solution to the lacking presence of sports programming online: an all-sports subscription channel.

The data comes from a sampling of 1,005 people surveyed between January 6 and February 2, according to Broadcasting & Cable.

Of course, the more exited about sports people are, the more they’re willing to pay. Among self-described intense sports fans, the percentage willing to pay for such an online option jumped to 78 percent. Households with children also got a boost, coming in at 70 percent.

Interestingly, the study finds that a majority of sports fans — 56 percent — are even willing to spend a larger share of their monthly budget on so-called over-the-top (OTT) subscription channels than they do on cable or satellite channels. That seems to suggest they’d be comfortable paying higher prices if it meant more of the content that interests them most. The study found that intense fans, for example, would be willing to purchase between three and four sports channels to get the most popular content online.

There was variation by generation, though. While the study suggests that 90 percent of all fans are willing to pay to stream sports, it was the youngest bracket surveyed that would shell out the most. Conversely, the oldest viewers want to keep a tighter grip on their dollars.

“Sports is the last category of must-see-now content,” said Jeffrey Cole, founder and director of the Center for the Digital Future. “Based on our data, genZ and millennial fans are clearly shifting preferences, behavior and spending.”

Content providers have already been making changes to try to accommodate these shifts, with streaming services like Sling TV and Playstation Vue, which offer a variety of traditional sports programming from networks like Disney’s ESPN and Fox Sports. However, comprehensive sports streaming options have yet to emerge.

A big fear for traditional pay TV services has long been the threat of online content cutting into their ad revenue, but the survey’s findings may offer reassurance. It turns out that less than half of sports fans — 44 percent — say that advertising detracts from their sports viewing experience, while another 44 percent are neutral and 12 percent say it actually enhances it. Interestingly, it’s mostly the older crowd (69- to 74-year-olds) who are anti-advertising, and frankly, they’re probably the least likely to watch games online.

The new study shows that interest in OTT subscriptions sports channels is clearly there, and perhaps the perceived barriers aren’t as daunting as they seem. It’s promising enough to ramp up our hope that such a service will arrive sooner rather than later.

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