Boxing: People love sport. Not everyone, before you accuse me of a hyperbolic generalisation, but billions around the globe certainly do. You name the sport, and I’ll name you countries that are obsessed, in love with, and culturally inseparable from it. Cricket in India, Soccer in the UK, American Football in the USA, Aussie Rules in, yes you guessed it, Australia, Ice Hockey in Canada. The list goes on, but you get my point, I hope.
Apart from the enjoyment of amateur participation, sport (professional) is a global business. It’s about the product on the pitch, on the field, in the arena, on the rink. It is about engendering loyalty among your fan base and extending it as much as possible. It is also about engaging people. Whether that is attending, watching on television, enjoying Super Bowl betting wins while cheering on your favourite team, or buying club-branded merchandise, there are many ways fans show support and interact within sport.
Sport has always been global, just look at the World Cup of Soccer or the Olympic Games. But with the birth of the internet and the exponential explosion of online coverage, things have changed, the landscape has altered. With this, the potential for audience growth, and indeed the constant growth as well as continued upward trajectory, is almost without end. So how far, and to what extend has online coverage both attracted new audiences and created a growth in popularity for different sports? Let’s take a look, it’s an interesting topic.
Local, National, International: Sports Enjoy Greater Reach With Online Supporters
From grass roots to global phenomena, different sports have varying levels of popularity. In North America, NFL, NBA and MLB rule the roost. In the UK, soccer and cricket top the pile. In India cricket is second to none. Of course, these sports and others have fans around the globe, but with online platforms and sports networks now streaming more live matches, games, and sporting contests than ever, new fans are being introduced to sports. Some such supporters may previously have had a cursory, or even no interest in a sport, only to become devout followers.
Thanks to the sport itself being eminently enjoyable, the increased and increasing availability of live global sports online, audiences are like never before. When you combine this online accessibility with some strategically executed marketing and creation of dedicated online platforms for fans developed by networks, clubs, franchises, owners and sometimes even players too, and you will begin to see how sport now has a greater reach than ever before.
What were once national sports, let’s think of things like curling, Gaelic football, even crown green bowling are now boasting and growing national and international. In part, this is undoubtedly down to the ability to watch these sports more accessibly, around the globe both love as well as on demand.
Online supporters, some of whom may never have attended a live event, number in the millions, naturally varying from sport to sport, but they make up a now significant number across global supporter bases. Put simply, being able to watch a sport or sports event online opens it up to the world. Instead of a ticket to a local game, television access to a national sport or travel to an international event, going online to watch it streaming levels the playing field, if you’ll pardon the pun.
Streaming Platforms And New Networks Becoming Major Sports Broadcast Providers
In years gone by sporting events were shown on television. From early images of people huddled around a communal black and white screen watching the 1966 World Cup Soccer Final to today’s giant screens providing almost cinematic sporting arenas for fans watching at home. But, though established sport networks are still powerful in terms of broadcasting rights, new contenders are emerging, giving audiences greater choice and helping grow global support.
In the UK, for example, Amazon has wrestled away some of the Premier League Soccer rights from the established, powerhouse sports networks such as Sky and TNT, offering streaming subscriptions globally. This alone signals how online platforms and new networks see both the value of sport as well as their ability to bring in a more global audience. This growth is likely to continue apace. More subscribers, more advertisers, more global reach, all ensuring the continued appearance of new sports-providing platforms online.
So, is online sport coverage going to remain supplementary to television network broadcasts, or will it eventually become the primary source for global sports audiences? Personally, I would proffer that in-person attendance and mainstream television supporters will remain strong. That said, these same people, along with those unable to access television networks or attend sports events in person will continue to expand, strengthen, grow and nurture global sporting audiences. Whichever way you slice it, online sports coverage is here to stay, and is becoming an ever-increasing power player in the sports broadcast landscape and ecosystem.