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Study: Pay-TV and NFL, Sports Fans Rely on Each Other

BOSTON—Football season is back, and two things remain the same: Tom Brady and the New England Patriots still look like the class of the league and NFL fans are tuning in to watch. But unlike other forms of content currently, pay-TV services are still the top choice to watch the NFL and other sports in general.

A recent survey from Altman Vilandrie & Company showed that 90% of sports fans still subscribe to pay-TV to watch their favorite teams or athletes. The number of non-sports fans who still subscribe to pay-TV, however, comes in at 67%.

The NFL and its teams are the biggest draw for sports fans on pay-TV. The league was the top choice of sport or athlete that fans most wanted to watch, and 12 teams and Tom Brady were included in the top 25. Major League Baseball and college football came in second and third, respectively, as most desired sports content.

Viewers proved this study is on to something with the ratings from the opening weekend of the NFL season. The NFL and Nielsen reported that there was an average of 17.1 million viewers for the slate of games, a 5% increase over 2018. The game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants (number six and 10 ranked entities) averaged 23.9 million viewers, while the New England Patriots vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (number eight and number 11) and Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears (number five and number 12) each averaged 22.2 million.

One area where the NFL is not dominant is with younger audiences (18-24). Altman Vilandrie & Company found that these viewers are more likely to have more favorite sports and less likely to watch the NFL than older viewers, and instead are more likely to watch things like the NBA, esports, fighting and European football leagues.

Other interesting findings from what sports fans want to watch: Steph Curry is the highest ranked athlete and ranks higher than any individual NBA team; Serena Williams is the top individual sport athlete; and despite football’s dominance, the New York Yankees are still the most in-demand team.

Another part of the study found that sports betting could be an emerging component for pay-TV. The survey found that 54% of respondents under the age of 24 identified as frequent or occasional sports gamblers, while only 17% of those 55 and older did.

“The rapid legalization of sports gambling by states provides an opportunity for pay-TV providers and leagues to attract younger viewers who are literally invested in the outcome of games,” said Matt Del Percio, Altman Vilandrie & Company principal.

Find out more from the survey here.