Sports Fans Overtake Digital Media

velocity Market Information, Research

Following the release of a Nielsen report on sports and the media, we’ve uncovered the most fascinating facts about last year’s viewership. Nielsen is already calling 2014 the year of Digital Viewing, as fans of every sport turned online to follow their favorite teams.

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The first big story comes from the year’s biggest enabler: the smartphone. Back in 2010, smartphone usage was at an impressive 30%, which meant almost a third of the U.S. was using one. In 2014, however, penetration increased to a staggering 75%. Smartphone market penetration showed us how crazy we are about our teams, from following Twitter updates to watching whole games online.

In October of last year alone, fans consumed over 7 billion minutes of sports content digitally. An ever-growing base of 72 million sports-watchers are taking over the digital media world.

The rise of sports apps also influenced our exuberant media consumption. Most of today’s sports apps include a blend of personalized content from our favorite teams and athletes, which means increased interaction. Verizon even offers exclusive live games as part of their partnership with the NFL. The top-ranked apps include ESPN Sports Center, MLB At Bat, and Team Stream.

Another big contributor was our sports culture obsession with Fantasy Football (heck, there’s even a show about it). Yes, grown adults pretending to own imaginary teams (many of whom work here) drove media consumption up. In 2014, fantasy leagues exploded with a yearly growth of 484% on desktop and 847% on mobile.

Let’s not forget about the World Cup. Every four years, more Americans become enamored with a sport they usually don’t care about. Whether you call it soccer or fútbol, it remains the most watched event around the world. U.S. viewership increased with the increasing success of the U.S. and Mexican teams, which are the most followed in the nation. The Brazil World Cup also helped establish Univision as the de-facto soccer network, streaming countless matches on their website free-of-charge.

Even one of the most mocked sporting events in America had a good year. The winter Olympics showed a healthy 208% increase in hours consumed from 2010.

As the U.S. sports audience grew in 2014, so did its cultural mix. The NBA was at the forefront of this multi-cultural shift, showing what’s in store for other sports in the coming years. A ten-year comparison showed an increase in viewership of 62% in the African-American demographic and a 57% increase for Asian-Americans. Although Hispanic and White fans also watched more minutes, their gains were modest at 14% and 13% respectively.

The biggest winner, however, was College Football. With the introduction of the new playoff format, both semi-final and final games became the most watched programs in cable TV history. The NCAA also aired 97 games with an audience larger than 2.5 million, along with record viewership of bowl games. This unprecedented viewership increase wouldn’t have been possible without the underdog story of Ohio State, which upset Alabama and defeated Oregon in the National Title game.

2014 was an exciting year for sports, and we hope this year holds up to the new precedent. As fans continue to increase consumption across different media platforms, there is an increasing opportunity for brands to connect with them.

Velocity Agency is a digital marketing and advertising firm specializing in digital and internet marketing & advertising, print, web design, graphic design, film, and HD video promotion and post-production. Velocity serves clients all over the United States from our Metairie, LA office just outside of New Orleans by strategically implementing proprietary tools and techniques to get you the most conversions for your business through lead generation, cost-per-acquisition, and top line revenue.