Deloitte survey reveals shifts in sports fan engagement amid digital era

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Broadcast production and media have experienced seismic shifts in recent years, and no domain seems more affected than sports consumption.

This is the central finding of Deloitte’s inaugural survey, “2023 Sports fan insights: The beginning of the immersive sports era,” which maps the landscape of changing fan behaviors.

The survey, polling around 3,000 U.S. individuals, reveals a generational divide in sports consumption. It identifies a solid base of dedicated sports fans willing to invest their time and money into the viewing experience. However, generational behaviors are reshaping what that experience looks like.

While 71% of fans overall prefer live sporting events, this number drops to 58% for Gen Zs and millennials. Simultaneously, more than 90% of Gen Z fans use social media platforms to consume sports content, like game clips, live events, athlete interviews, and posts.

“The sports industry is undergoing transformative changes and Deloitte’s first survey on this topic highlights the passion and resilience of sports fans of all ages,” said Kat Harwood, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP, U.S. sports practice.

“The concept of immersive sports showcases the personalized experiences available to fans and how they engage with their favorite teams. Deloitte looked at everything from social interaction during games and SVOD habits to sports betting and NFTs to find out what matters most to fans and how organizations can navigate this dynamic environment and create new opportunities for fan engagement,” added Harwood. 

Adding further weight to Deloitte’s findings, a recent study commissioned by Vizrt outlines the shifting landscape of sports content consumption, particularly amongst younger audiences.

The Vizrt report found that over 76% of respondents still prefer to watch sports content on television, but this preference significantly changes when the demographic is taken into account. For instance, 67% of Gen Z (those born in the late 1990s to early 2000s) prefer to consume sports content on their mobile devices. This ties in with Deloitte’s assertion about the burgeoning prominence of digital platforms for media consumption.

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Moreover, the report from Vizrt emphasizes the importance of immersive and engaging content, particularly for younger viewers. With an astounding 79% of sports fans expressing increased interest in broadcasts that incorporate augmented reality (AR) graphics and virtual elements, it’s evident that advanced visuals play a crucial role in capturing the attention of younger viewers and enhancing engagement.

A multi-screen, multi-tasking experience

A significant 77% of fans engage in at least one concurrent sports-related activity while watching games at home. These activities range from looking up player statistics and using social media to playing fantasy sports, betting on the game, and watching other games on different devices.

Fans are also tailoring their home viewing experiences. While traditional TVs remain the primary mode for sports consumption (74%), this share reduces to around 60% for Gen Z and millennial fans, pointing towards a multi-device approach.

Betting and fan behaviors

Half of Gen Z and millennials over the age of 21 expressed a desire for real-time, mobile betting options while attending live sporting events. Bettors, in general, prove more active as fans, with a greater likelihood to attend games in person, buy merchandise, pay for a streaming service, buy season tickets, or participate in fantasy leagues.

However, the survey also highlights apprehensions about sports betting, with 59% of non-bettors expressing concerns about its long-term impact on professional sports.

Streaming: The future of sports consumption?

The rise of subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services signals a significant shift in sports consumption. The survey reveals that 30% of fans, and 46% of millennials, subscribed to SVOD services specifically for sports watching within the past year. Furthermore, fans seem to favor SVOD services over cable or broadcast TV, especially among Gen Z (64%) and millennials (71%).

Fans expressed a desire for additional SVOD features such as real-time stats, multiple camera angles, and athlete point-of-view shots. However, they also showed frustrations with fragmentation and a desire for a more unified streaming experience.

Digital assets: Room for growth

The survey indicates moderate familiarity with digital assets like non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and fan tokens, especially among Gen Z and millennials. However, adoption rates are currently low, with confusion surrounding the purpose of such assets. Still, around 60% of fans expressed willingness to purchase fan tokens if they came with benefits like premium seating or exclusive merchandise.

Overall, the study underscores an evolving sports viewing landscape shaped by generational shifts and technological advancements. The challenge for broadcasters will be to adapt to these trends and create a seamless, immersive, and multi-platform experience that satisfies the needs and preferences of every sports fan.

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