Harris Poll and Sportico Survey Shows Dramatic Shift in Sport Viewing Habits

A poll conducted by Harris Poll and Sportico shows that younger generations are moving toward mobile devices and digital platforms for sports viewing.

Harris Poll and Sportico Examine Viewing Habits

Harris Poll, in a partnership with Sportico, recently surveyed around 2,000 people on their sports viewing habits. The results are to an extent expected, though it is interesting to see the differences laid out in concrete numbers.

The poll divides participants into four distinct generations: Gen Z (ages 10 to 25), Millennials (also known as Gen Y; ages 25 to 39), Gen X (ages 40 to 55) and Boomers (ages 56 and above). There is still disagreement on the specifics of these age ranges, but these are the generally accepted numbers.

Shifting Importance of Platforms

According to the data, the general trend is toward digitization, streaming and social media. Younger generations prefer using digital platforms, while the older generations stick to traditional television broadcasts.

  • Television broadcasts: We see a notable drop of use with every subsequent generation, though it always edges out other platforms if even by a little. Used by far the most by Boomers (77%) and also the favored viewing platform among Gen X (57%). Only 35% of Gen Y and Z use it.
  • Streaming services: The poll distinguishes between Paid, Free and Illegal streaming. All of the subtypes see an increase in popularity with subsequent generations. Only 18% of Boomers use some type of streaming, predominantly Paid streams. The percentage increases to 29% for Gen X and to 46% for Gen Y and Z, all of which also opt for Paid streaming.
  • Social media: The newest platform to view sporting events. As such, it sees use primarily by the younger generations. Social media is preferred by 2% of Boomers, 10% of Gen X and 17% of Gen Y and Z.

The Greater Context

These numbers are interesting when dissected on their own, but their meaning shifts a bit when put into a greater context.

Overall, when we pool all of the results together, we see that while television has dipped in importance it is still the dominant viewing platform. A total of 51% of participants use it as their main source for live sporting events.

Digital platforms have increased substantially in importance. Around 24% of participants use paid streaming services, while 21% opt for free streaming platforms and 19% for social media streaming.

Illegal streaming is a particularly interesting trend. Only 5% of participants use it as their main viewing platform, but we see a notable increase with younger generations. Around 12% of Gen Z participants prefer illegal streams or pirating. Compare this to 37% of the age group that prefers television broadcasts.

Rise of Mobile Devices

We also see changes in the devices of choice between the different generations. The trend mimics the changes in platform preferences, with a visible decline in television dominance and a rise of digital and mobile offerings.

Again, television is most popular with Boomers (71% chose it as their main device). Television’s importance declines with every subsequent generation, with the lowest popularity among Gen Z (48%). However, it is still the most commonly used device, even for Gen Z.

Phone, tablet and computer usage is the highest for Gen Y (41%, 28% and 30% respectively) and surprisingly dips for Gen Z (31%, 20%, 24% respectively). This is linked to the fact that a higher percentage of Gen Z does not consume sports events compared to Gen Y (24% vs 15% respectively).

Overall, the development trend is clear:

  • Television is gradually losing importance as a device and a viewing platform.
  • Streaming services are growing rapidly in importance. If the trend continues at this speed, streaming will likely replace television as a main platform for the next generation.
  • Social media is seeing a massive boost in popularity. It is still a very new concept and we cannot be sure how it will develop, though it is likely to grow.

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