According to a striking study of Nielsen television viewership data of 25 sports, all but one have seen the median age of their TV viewers increase during the past decade.
The study, conducted exclusively for SportsBusiness Journal by Magna Global, looked at live, regular-season game coverage of major sports across both broadcast and cable television in 2000, 2006 and 2016. It showed that while the median age of viewers of most sports, except the WTA, NBA and MLS, is aging faster than the overall U.S. population, it is doing so at a slower pace than prime-time TV.
"There is an increased interest in short-term things, like stats and quick highlights," said Brian Hughes, senior vice president of audience intelligence and strategy at Magna Global USA. "That availability of
information has naturally funneled some younger viewers away from TV."
None of the properties contacted contested the data, but most pointed to digital consumption among younger viewers, which was not included in the study and is growing rapidly. Some leagues, such as MLS, the NBA and WTA, will be bullish about the data while others such as the PGA Tour will continue to address the long-term viewership narrative around their sport.
Soccer skews the youngest on television, with a median age of 40 for MLS viewers in 2016, up from 39 in 2006. The PGA Tour skews the oldest, as the average age of its television viewers climbed from 59 in 2006 to 64 in 2016.
The NFL in 2016 had a median TV viewer age of 50, up four from 2006; MLB rose four years as well to 57; the NHL was up seven to 49; and the NBA was up two from 40.
[NASCAR had an average age of 58, an increase of 9 years since 2006]
The WTA is the sole property studied to buck the trend toward older TV viewers. In 2016, the WTA's median age TV viewer decreased to 55, down eight years from 2006. It was the only property that saw a drop in the median age of its TV viewers during the past decade.
While the study shows the progression toward older TV viewership in sports, it does not address any specific changes in the number of sports television viewers for any particular property. However, Magna data reveals that in 2016 the majority of properties saw an increase in the number of televised hours compared to 2006. For example, approximately 354 hours of live MLS action aired nationally last year, up tenfold compared to a decade prior. Only boxing, wrestling and the PGA Tour Champions saw their number of TV hours decline between those two years.
-- Sports Business Daily --