Sports could woo almost 40% of cord-cutters back to pay TV


Michelle Clancy

| 27 September 2015

Two out of five cord-cutters (39%) say sports channels are a reason to return to pay TV.

A new survey by Frank N. Magid Associates also revealed that nine out of ten (88%) sports fans say they watch sports on a television set, with broadcast networks leading the way at 73% of respondents, followed by cable sports networks (62%) and general entertainment networks (60%).

That’s even though a growing number of sports fans are watching sports on the Internet: nearly two out of of five (37%) of all sports fans say they watch sports streamed online "often," while nearly three in five (57%) fans say they watch sports online in any way at all. These consumers typically gravitate to available larger digital screens: computers led among 37% of respondents, followed by over-the-top (OTT) video delivery to a TV (26%), tablets (25%) and smartphones (25%).

However, much marquee sports content, like NFL games, isn’t widely available online, opening a door for pay-TV providers to use it as a diiferentiator.

"Sports remains the most DVR-proof form of video content," said Alexander Brown, president and CEO of ONE World Sports, which sponsored the study. "The excitement, immediacy and community around sports contests demand live viewing, whether that viewing takes place via an antenna, or a pay-TV provider, or via a live web stream. Whatever the format, the findings support that people want to watch sports live, and on the best – typically largest and most crisp – available screen."

Added Brown: "The data about digital viewing is consistent with what we're seeing throughout the television and digital-video industries. Digital video providers, whether they're targeting their services for OTT delivery or mobile devices, are actively seeking sports content to feed their new services and attract consumers."

Further, 25% of all broadband-only consumers cut their cords within the last two years – but more than half (51%) have been cord-cutters for more than five years, or "cord-nevers" who have not subscribed to pay TV at all.

Millennials (adults 18-34) make up the majority (52%) of cord cutters over the past two years. Most (58%) of all cord cutting Millennials have cut the cord within the past three years. But, 49% of recent cord cutters said they would be attracted back to the cord to watch a network like ONE World Sports.

"Among the findings, it was particularly gratifying to see that ONE World Sports over-indexes sports in general as a lure back to pay TV for recent cord-cutters," Brown noted. "Since the majority of cord-cutters are Millennials, this response supports our view that younger Americans are not only increasingly multicultural, but are ready to embrace global TV content such as sports from around the world."

The results dovetail with a cord-cutting survey from Digitalsmiths, which found that about 7.7% of respondents in have switched pay-TV providers in the last three months.

According to the research, that's a 1.7% increase year-over-year. Additionally, in the next six months, a total of 14.9% of respondents are at risk and plan to either cut their service (4.5%), change providers (8.1%) or switch to an online app or rental service (2.3%).