ESPN: Fans Want Live Sports on TV to Return ASAP

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BRISTOL, Conn.—A majority of sports fans, from the casual to the avid, are eagerly awaiting the return of live sports to their TV sets and are open to games without crowds in the stands to help accelerate that return during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey from ESPN.

ESPN Research & Insights conducted the “ESPN Coronavirus Lockdown Fan Study” nationwide, with just over 1,000 sports fans 18 years old and older from April 17-20 participating, broken down into “avid” fans and “all” sports fans. The key takeaway, fans want sports back as soon as possible in practically any format.

With professional sports leagues having been suspended since mid March, 90% of avid sports fans say they miss watching live sporting events on TV; among all sports fans, the number is at 56%. Not currently having sports on the horizon brings sorrow to 78% of avid sports fans and 53% of all sports fans.

Fans are indicating that they want the professional leagues to do what they have to so the leagues can return as soon as possible. This could include watching games without fans in the stands (65% in favor, 35% opposed) and keeping players in hotels to minimize contact with others (76% in favor).

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Avid sports fans live up to their billing, with 88% saying they can’t wait until live sports are back on TV and plan to watch as much as they can; 56% of all sports fans feel the same. This was proven when the NFL Draft, which was conducted virtually, drew record ratings.

Two-thirds (67%) of sports fans—85% of avid sports fans—feel that the return of sports would help bring normalcy back during the pandemic.