• Bob Sillick

Advertisers, Are You Prepared to Follow Young Sports Fans to Streaming Services?

Engaging with consumers on the news and entertainment sources of their choosing is one of the oldest “rules” of advertising. Advertisers must prepare now to follow young sports fans to streaming services because more sports programming will be migrating to those services. The most recent example is Amazon snagging exclusive rights to the NFL’s Thursday Night Football, which was supposed to start during the 2023 season, but has been advanced to the 2022 season.


New research conducted by Magid for Tubi, a division of Fox Entertainment, reinforces the well-established trend that young adults, especially those 25–44, are the largest streaming audience as well as having peak interest in sports. Many of these young adults are not just watching and listening to sports via a streaming service. The availability of teams’ Websites, social media sites and online sports publications and outlets prompted Tubi to coin a new term in its report, the Watchlete, or someone so immersed in sports that “watching sports is a sport.”


Data from five representative 2021 consumer/market surveys conducted by Local Sports Insights provides more insights about adults 25–44 who are fans of professional sports and which sports and teams they are watching and listening on a streaming service. (These five markets were selected because they have at least three major sports teams and most have four or more.)


In four of the five representative markets, adults 25–44, over-index as “fans of professional sports,” but more revealing is which major professional sports – and eSports – attracts most of their attention.



“What’s most striking about our data comparison is these young adults over-index the most as fans of MLS and even more for eSports, with the NBA also a fan favorite in these markets,” said Tony Ott, Vice President/General Manager, Local Sports Insights. “Average viewing for The 2021 MLS Cup was 1.14 million, compared to 1.07 million for the 2020 Cup and 825,000 for the 2019 Cup broadcast. The MLS is actively using this increased interest to negotiate a better TV deal and streaming services are taking notice.”


Understanding this intersection of sports fans and streaming services is critical for advertisers since they will have to adjust the use of their advertising dollars and messages to the streaming environment. These Millennial sports fans are entering their peak consumer spending years and will continue to be the prime target for decades.


A different set of data from Local Sports Insights shows which major sports leagues (and eSports) adults 25–44 who are “fans of professional sports” are watching or listening on a streaming service. The MLS, eSports and the NBA generate the largest indices, although these adults also over-index for most of the leagues in these five markets.



A well-established trend is young adults generally under-index for watching Major League Baseball on TV compared to older adults who over-index; however, adults 25–44 over-index for watching or listening to their local MLB’s teams in four of these five representative markets.


Looking at the data in these five markets also shows these young adults over-index for the MLS, NBA and NHL teams in their markets.



Tubi is convinced Magid’s research indicates sports is the next and generally the last major entertainment sector to find new homes on streaming services. The Media Audit data supports this conclusion. Brands and advertisers of all sizes must develop and be prepared to initiate new campaigns to follow the sports audience and their consumer dollars to streaming services.