For the opening week of the NFL season, 58% of surveyed adult viewers reported watching at least one game via a paid streaming service or app, according to a new Snapshot Study from agency Colling Media.
More than one-quarter (26%) of respondents viewed games on at least two streaming sites or apps, Colling Media found, reflecting how the availability of broadcasts causes viewers to switch between platforms. The agency's report also revealed some fans watch games on up to four services, with one respondent accessing content via PlayStation Vue, fuboTV, CBS All Access and Amazon Prime for season kickoff.
- In good news for the league, its NFL Sunday Ticket offering led the pack of content providers with 20% market penetration. But Colling Media emphasized that the space is cluttered, with Amazon Prime and Hulu both commanding 18% market share, Sling TV at 15% and NFL Game Pass at 13%. Twenty-three percent of those surveyed said they use smaller streaming services or apps, such as the NBC Sports app, Chromecast or other channels available through virtual private networks.
Colling Media's report signals both good and bad news for the NFL and football marketers as the shift to digital viewing continues to accelerate. On the one hand, the league and its advertisers may welcome the increasingly robust presence on paid streaming services and apps — the types of media channels favored by desirable young audiences like Gen Z and millennials, who are watching TV less frequently.
On the other hand, the data reinforce how scattered the online viewing landscape has become, with the availability of games and eyeballs broken up across a number of platforms that may make stitching together a holistic picture of the consumer more difficult to do than it is on linear channels.
"While consumers are embracing alternative ways of watching NFL games live, the challenge for advertisers is reaching this audience scattered across multiple screens and services/subscriptions," Colling Media CEO Brian Colling said in a statement. "How fans watch NFL games is fragmenting, underscoring why brands should be incorporating over-the-top (OTT) programmatic advertising into the marketing mix."
The NFL has continued to ramp up efforts to diversify where it shows games and other content, even as TV continues to be by far its largest channel viewership-wise, with ratings on the rise for the start of the league's 100th season. This week, the organization reupped a deal with Facebook that will see it share recaps, analysis and original content via the social network's Watch portal for premium video through the 2020 season, according to Variety. The two first struck a partnership in 2017.
But the NFL has this year forged entirely new digital partnerships that illustrate its eagerness to connect with younger football fans where they're spending their time, namely online and on mobile phones. The league earlier this month created an account on ByteDance-owned TikTok, a favorite among teens today. The move was part of a two-year deal where the NFL will share content on the viral social video app, including hashtag challenge campaigns and influencer content.
Similarly, the NFL recently partnered with Reddit to reach the social web forum's user base of 330 million, 9 million of which access pro football-related communities each month. This week, the league also premiered a new weekly digital video series, "NFL Game Day All-Access," that is exclusively available on YouTube.