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Is TikTok Going To Destroying Sports?


Live broadcasting via television has been one of the most important income streams of

sports. With Millions of people glued to their screens watching football, Tennis, or Athletics,

TV companies raked in billions from advertising and subscription fees.

This money trickled down to the clubs and athletes.

But there is a major threat to this ecosystem. Every year fewer young people watch live sports.

Phones and social media are stealing their attention away at an alarming rate.

If television money dries up, what will happen to the sports we know and love?

Welcome to Athletic Interest. In this video, we will explain how the way we watch

sports is changing, why the rise of TikTok threatens live sports

and how the answer might lie in the history of Spotify and Netflix.

Old vs young. Baby Boomers vs Millennials. Gen Z vs everyone else. This civil war is essentially

based on the older generation thinking their younger counterparts are lazy and entitled,

while the younger generations see the baby boomers as selfish and out of touch.

And now Gen Z, alongside their Millennial allies,

are launching an attack on one of the most sacred aspects of boomer culture… Live Sports.

It is a slight exaggeration to classify live sport as something exclusively

enjoyed by the older generations. But the statistics do paint an interesting picture.

Around half (48%) of young US sports fans (18-34) prefer highlights over live games.

Most fans over 50 like the traditional live experience better.

Most (57%) young fans prefer to watch clips of goals on social media

over longer broadcasts. For them live TV is a thing of the past.

In the words of Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli:

“I have the privilege of having five kids, but I don’t think (…) one of them has ever

sat next to me for 90 minutes when I was watching the game,”

In reality, no sport is safe. Almost half (43%) of people aged 13-23 have

no interest in any sport whatsoever! Even if you manage to find a young sports fan,

statistically they will have a greater interest in e-sports than the traditional game.

So, how worried should we be about the decline in interest for live games?

Well if you like football you might find this next part a bit disturbing.

2:51In the 90s, technology for broadcasting live football started to improve and the industry

took off. Almost overnight billions were pumped into football clubs. These clubs have

since invested in players, stadiums, training grounds, scouting and marketing campaigns. They

accumulated billions in debt under the assumption that broadcasting revenue would cover the costs.

Most top clubs get around 40% of their revenue from television.

For many the share is even more significant, for example Roma (67%) or Everton (75%).

But all good things must come to an end. Most experts agree that broadcasting revenues peaked

in 2018. Even potential growth markets such as China are starting to crumble. In 2020,

the Premier League terminated a lucrative half a billion (564 million) pound contract

with a Chinese streaming service (PPTV), when the company failed to make payments.

French football narrowly escaped collapse in 2020 after the breakdown of their TV rights deal with
Mediapro. Despite this scare, the league entered a new deal with Amazon for significantly less.

If sports like football have any hope of engaging new fans,

they need to understand why young people are turning off the TV.

To understand the challenges, it is worth looking

at what happened to the music and film industry in recent decades.

Only a few years ago the only way to legally consume music or movies was by going to a

store – not online but in the real world – to buy strange spherical discs called CDs or DVDs.

The big production studios were sending their lawyers

to people downloading just one single song or movie from the internet.

They were desperately trying to protect their old fashioned business model.

Enter Spotify and Netflix who decided that people might enjoy music or movies
online whenever they feel like it. Industry experts dismissed the services as a fad.

But there was no turning back, the music and film industries were disrupted.

Fast forward to 2021: streaming services dominate music consumption and Netflix has

outgrown traditional Hollywood to become one of the largest media companies on the planet.

Spotify and Netflix were able to disrupt their industries, because they understood a simple fact:

Give the people what they want, whenever they want it, for a reasonable price

and they will pay for it, rather than steal it.

Live sports could be facing a similar disruption.

Generation Z demand shorter, ‘snackable’ content and are far less willing to sit

through 90 minutes of football just to see a few key moments of action.

Before the baby boomers get all high and mighty and blame the kids for their short

attention spans, the situation is a little bit more complex.

Older generations are comfortable consuming sports in the same way as always, through

an expensive pay TV package. Younger fans, who are more technologically savvy, realise they can

save a lot of money by cutting the cord and using highlights or social media to view key moments.

Gen Z have grown up with social media, which provides users with a personalised feed

and control over what they consume. Live sports

force you to listen to the opinions of a bunch of angry former athletes, dispersed

between hours of mind-numbing advertising that you can’t skip after five seconds.

“Gen Z will tell you time is very valuable, they don’t see the value in sitting and watching

something for three hours, whether that’s a baseball game, the Super Bowl, or the Oscars.”

Flexibility is important and young fans are used to flicking through content on their own terms.

The NBA is already working hard to engage the Gen Z fan. Understanding the need for flexibility and

desire to view the main action, the NBA offers one subscription for game highlights and another

for the last 15 minutes of specific games. Sky, one of the largest football broadcasters,

has begun to offer fans the ability to purchase access for one single game,

instead of being stuck in a long-term contract. While these methods may provide a short-term fix,

is there a way to increase interest in live sports among younger fans?

Before 2017, the fanbase of Formula 1 was shrinking as the cost of cable television rose

dramatically. When Liberty Media took over, they started to broadcast Formula 1 through

free-to-air television and began an aggressive campaign to increase appeal among kids.

The journey of a young fan looked something like this:

Hook them in with a cool promotional video on Tik-Tok or Instagram.

Feed their desire to know more with YouTube content and a Netflix documentary series.

Get them to watch the race weekends on TV. This strategy appears to be working. In 2020,

F1 increased its audience of European kids by almost 3 (2.85) million. This is a 17%

year-on-year increase which puts football’s 6% yearly increase into perspective.

If sports like football want to prevent a significant drop in their revenues,

they might want to follow F1’s example.

Before fans get too concerned, a major shift in the market does not mean that live sports will

cease to exist. After all, the highlights and memes have to come from somewhere!

More importantly, the unpredictable magic of two teams going up against each other on a

Saturday evening is something that humans, at least the ones behind Athletic Interest, will

always be drawn to. The live sports experience can never be replicated through social media.

But the way we consume sports is destined for a major shake up.

Spotify disrupted the music industry, Netflix disrupted the film industry.

We miht see the next big disruption happening in sports broadcasting.

No matter if you wanna stream Netflix or sports, you’ll probably use the internet.

Which means a) people will try to get your data and b) you have to face annoying things like

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