Live Sports Streams on the Rise

Viewers continue to opt for digital platforms to view live events, yet it's not making up for losses on linear TV.

As if things weren't troubling enough for linear TV, which is losing viewers across the board to other platforms and services, it's now seeing its war horse lose in battle too.

Sports broadcasts on linear TV have been consistently losing viewers in the US, as digital viewership continues to rise. Yet, it hasn't been enough to make up for the losses.

For example, NFL regular-season Monday Night Football on ESPN games last season lost 872,000 viewers on average, but unique viewers from those same games streamed on WatchESPN only pulled in 222,065, according to Magna Global.

In addition, CBS' Super Bowl this past year was down 2.02 million traditional TV viewers, but only gained 1.06 million unique viewers.

Still, viewership has continued to increase for live streaming of sports, in terms of unique viewers and total minutes.

Unique viewers of live streaming of Major League Baseball on WatchESPN grew 40% from 2015 to average 86,459 in 2016. The NFL regular-season MNF games on WatchESPN grew 67% to 553,505, while the NBA Finals on WatchESPN witness almost double the unique viewers in 2016 over 2015, up 84% to 1.16 million.

Total streaming minutes also were up by around the same levels for those sports: NBA Finals (93%), NFL regular season (73%) and Major League Baseball regular season (56%).

According to Magna Global, an exception to the rule comes with soccer, which actually grew on linear TV, mainly because it engages young, multicultural viewers.

Over the past four years, TV networks in total have now devoted 13% of their sports time to soccer in 2015-2016 season, almost double that from the 6% level in the 2011-2012 season.

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