To say that Americans love sports is an understatement. According to global market research firm Mintel, 85 percent of American adults follow at least one sport. In 2022, Statista found that millions of sports fans across the U.S. religiously follow an NFL team, watch tennis, or watch every Formula One Grand Prix race, despite the fact that the F1 is more of a European favorite. In the same report, it was found that 26 percent of respondents labeled themselves avid sports fans.
In America, being a sports fan goes beyond just watching your favorite teams play live in a stadium or court. Depending on the sport, being a fan can also mean partaking in certain traditions. For example, tailgating during the NFL season is a unique tradition involving having a barbecue or grill party in the parking lots of stadiums or arenas where NFL games occur.
Unfortunately, due to pandemic restrictions, sports fans couldn’t gather how they used to. Instead, they’ve turned to streaming services to satisfy their sporting entertainment needs and remain up to date on their favorite sports. Streaming platforms like DirecTV, ESPN Plus, and FuboTV have all seen increased their subscription rates increase in 2020 and 2021. These days, access to streaming and watching sports has never been easier.
But what are some of the sports that Americans are into streaming? According to research done by ExpressVPN, these are the top five sports that rule sports streaming trends in America in 2021:
It’s no surprise that Americans love their football. The NFL is among the most popular sporting leagues worldwide, drawing even non-American fans. The NFL association recently announced that approximately one million viewers watch NFL football during week one of telecasts. The same report also revealed that Americans spent 23.2 billion minutes watching just week one of the games.
Outside of the NFL, NCAA Football’s Big 10 have recently signed a slew of sports TV and streaming deals. These deals give broadcasters like Fox, CBS, and NBC the rights to stream the games to a broader audience. If anything, the agreement demonstrates football's firm grip on American culture.
Next up on America’s streaming list is basketball, and it’s with good reason. Alongside the NFL, the NBA, too, has fans worldwide.
According to the NBA, U.S. viewership for the 2022 NBA finals increased 22 percent year-over-year, averaging 12.4 million viewers. Research organization Nielsen also shared that the 2022 finals were the most-watched NBA finals in three years. These figures represent a positive change for the NBA, as streaming numbers plummeted during the pandemic when games weren’t allowed to happen.
Perhaps the most surprising sport on this list, more and more Americans are tuning in to watch soccer or association football, as it’s better known. This might be due to the fact that NBC struck a £2 billion deal to stream the English Premier League after beating out other American broadcasters.
The upcoming FIFA World Cup could also be one of the reasons why the interest for soccer has spiked. The 2022 World Cup will take place in Qatar from November 20 to December 18, 2022, with 32 teams competing across eight groups.
According to the findings in the infographic, baseball appears to be less popular than the sports above. The trend, however, looks to be changing with MLB.TV registered over 11.5 billion minutes watched during the 2022 season. This figure marks the first time that the MLB.TV has surpassed 11 billion minutes watched.
MLB.TV as well have mentioned that the viewership of Big Inning, a nightly whip-around show, has increased significantly, with an 84 percent increase in minutes watched over 2021. If this trend continues, it’ll be easy to assume that sports fans will want more than just to watch sporting matches.
Finally, hockey rounds up the top five most-watched sports in America. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it reigns supreme in Minnesota. For those who might not know, Minnesota is considered the state for hockey. In 2021, the NHL signed a broadcasting deal with ESPN and Turner Sports that helped double its annual rights revenue. In a Sports Business Journal article, NHL’s senior vice president for ESPN, Ilan Ben-Hanan, said the company is pleased with NHL’s ability to drive both streaming subscriptions and viewership.
Besides the most streamed sports, the infographic also revealed other sports that are gaining traction in America. The UFC, for example, is hugely popular for streaming, with many fans in the U.S. tuning in for various athletes. Conor McGregor, for example, seems to be popular amongst Americans.
As sporting trends change throughout the years, it’s going to be interesting to see just how they’ll influence the way that people want to stream sports and how they’ll affect what producers will want to create in the future.