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The Pulse: Live Sports

May 11, 2022

The last bastion of linear television has remained live sports. Once consumers widely make the jump to streaming for live sports, there will be little else, other than the inertia of older generations, to keep linear TV afloat.


Who is Watching Live Sports?

70% of US Adults say that they regularly watch live sports. This number is predictably higher among men (80%) than women (61%), but the majority of women still say that they regularly watch live sports. Higher income consumers are also more likely to regularly watch live sports with 77% of those making more the $100K per year doing so compared to 65% for those who make less than $50k per year.


What Sports Leagues Are They Watching?

The average US Adult regularly watches 2.7 different sports leagues. The NFL is by far the most popular sport to watch live with 42% of US adults watching. College football is the second most popular at 27%. The next most popular is the NBA (25%), the MLB (23%), college basketball (20%).


Looking at the generation breakdown for sports, the NFL is slightly more popular with older generations but is still well balanced in terms of their audience. The NBA, college basketball, and MLS/International Soccer all skew slightly younger as well. The MLB and NASCAR both strongly skew towards older audience. eSports unsurprisingly is heavily comprised of Gen Z and Millennials.


How Much Are They Watching?

The average US adult that regularly watches lives sports watches an average 5.6 hours per week throughout the year. During the fall, when the most popular sports (the NFL and college football) are in season, the average jumps up to 6.3 hours per week. Contrary to popular beliefs though, plenty of live sports content is being consumed during the spring and summer, just not quite as much as during the fall.


The Battle Between Streaming & Linear TV

Now that we know who is watching live sports and how much they are watching, let’s get back to the battle between streaming and linear TV. For now, at least, linear TV still reigns supreme when it comes to live sports with 71% of consumers still primarily using linear TV. This number is not as strong among Gen Z and Millennials. 39% of Gen Z and 41% of Millennials say that they primarily use one or more streaming platforms to watch live sports.


What Are They Streaming On?

The most popular streaming services for consumers that primarily stream sports is Amazon Prime. This might leave you scratching your head a bit (it did for me). Digging a bit deeper into Prime, users can add services such as CBS Sports,, NBA League Pass, WNBA, and NBA TV to their Prime accounts. So, while Amazon may not directly have proprietary sports (other than Thursday Night Football) they are a sort of aggregator of sports streaming content.


How Do Streamers & Linear TV Viewers Differ?

Many opinions on live sports are shared between streamers and linear TV users such as difficulty in finding games that they want to watch. But the differences between the two groups are the most interesting. 26% of streamers and 20% of linear TV users agreed that they have issues with picture quality/lag when watching live sports. The relatively small 6% difference was quite surprising for this metric as I had expected streamers to have more issues. Another large, but unsurprising difference, is that 53% of live sports streamers often stream sports on their cellphone/tablet/laptop which is significantly higher than 31% of linear TV users. Another significant difference is that 67% of streamers said that they often use a second screen while watching sports compared to only 54% for linear TV users.

When it comes to opinions on advertising during live sports, most opinions were evenly shared between streamers and linear TV users. Streamers did agree slightly more that advertising was more relevant to them and that split screen ads were preferrable to full commercial breaks.


What Does the Future Hold?

So, what does the future hold for live sports and linear TV? Well, 42% of linear TV users agreed that live sports are the primary reason that they have not ‘cut the cord’. This number is even higher for younger generations which are already utilizing streaming more for their live sports content. So while younger generations have shifted and will continue to shift to streaming, it does appear that there will remain a solid base of older consumers who want to watch sports via linear TV.


Written by Jake Kelley, Director, Reporting at Big Village Insights.


This Online CARAVAN® omnibus survey was conducted on May 2-4, 2022. Approximately 1,000 adults selected from opt-in panels were surveyed. The results are also weighted to U.S. Census data to be demographically representative. Learn more about our Online CARAVAN® omnibus surveys here. Contact us at for more information.