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Survey: Sports fans prefer highlights over live games

Reproduced from Maru Group for Variety Intelligence Platform; Chart: Axios Visuals

A new era of sports fandom is upon us, one in which fans increasingly come for snacks (highlights) instead of meals (live games).

By the numbers: Among U.S. sports fans ages 18–34, 58% of MLB fans, 54% of NBA fans and 48% of NFL fans say they prefer watching highlights to full games, according to a survey by Variety.

  • Of note: The number of NFL fans ages 35–49 who prefer highlights to games drops substantially to 20%, but that isn't the case for the NBA and MLB, with roughly half of fans in that age group saying so.

Why it matters: The sports ecosystem is built on live sports rights. If fans aren't regularly tuning into games, it could threaten the entire model.

  • This change in viewership behavior has been well-documented among millennial and Gen Z fans, many of whom have cut the cord and rely largely on social media for their sports coverage.
  • But this survey suggests the preference for short-form clips extends beyond that age group, at least among NBA and MLB fans.
  • In other words, the "highlight generation" might actually be the "highlight generations."

What they're saying: "This will be a crucial battleground for leagues on two fronts," writes Variety's Gavin Bridge.

  • Front 1: "How to entice viewers to come back to full games."
  • Front 2: "How to better monetize highlights without making them so cost prohibitive that fans give up on watching them and grow more disconnected."

Read the full report.

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