As television’s MVP, live sports has a reputation of captivating large audiences and billions of dollars in advertising investment. With the coronavirus effects in full swing, cancellations have essentially evaporated live sports content, leaving Heavy Sports audiences starved for action-packed play by plays and advertisers scrambling to uncover where those viewers have gone.
There’s been no shortage of creativity in entertaining and captivating these audiences, something we’ve seen especially true in the last few weeks. The release of ESPN’s Michael Jordan documentary, The Last Dance, and the NFL’s first ever virtual draft, finally gave fans their fix of buzzer beaters and play makers. VideoAmp identified and measured the Heavy Sports viewer audience, defined as viewers who avidly tune in to live sports content, to better understand viewership trends and uncover prescriptive insights that can help advertisers strategize their media plans today and moving forward.
The Last Dance, which was originally set to air in June, premiered Sunday, April 19 to take advantage of TV’s gap in sports related content. Profiling Michael Jordan’s historic career in the NBA and highlighting his 1997-98 season with the Chicago Bulls, the highly anticipated 10-episode miniseries is released in 2 episode segments over the course of 5 weeks, bringing viewers a regular cadence of content (albeit, the only first-aired sports content on television). In it’s premier, The Last Dance drove Heavy Sports viewers back to linear TV in prime time, with a 21% increase over the previous week. Perhaps it’s the inside look at one of the NBA’s best, or the fact that audiences have gone almost 2 months without live sports. Whatever the reason, the first two episodes of the miniseries brought ESPN back to pre-quarantine levels of viewership, defined as the week of March 2.
Sports content has always been engaging, but what happens when it goes virtual? According to the league, the NFL draft, which started Thursday, April 23 and concluded Saturday, April 25th, drew an unprecedented 8.4 million average viewers over the 3-day event, a huge jump from the roughly 6 million viewers in 2019. English-language networks that saw dramatic increases in viewership among the Heavy Sports audience included The NFL Network, ESPN and ABC, as it was simulcast over the duration of the event. Doubling up on sports programming, the week of April 20 saw an impressive 97% WoW gain on ESPN as the draft and The Last Dance both had airings.
It comes as no surprise that Heavy Sports audiences have seen some of the greatest shifts in TV viewership since shelter in place orders began. The last few weeks in sports programming have shown a hunger for sports content, even if it’s not traditional live events. Documentaries and virtual events have stepped up as all star mentions, serving as placeholders until sports schedules return- which according to the NFL, NASCAR and the MLB, may be sooner than we think.
To make the most out of your audiences, no matter where they are or what they’re watching, learn more about how you can apply VideoAmp’s TV insights to drive results.