The last few weeks have seen a new proliferation of sports-themed competitions, challenges and contests, between office colleagues and home environments, across the EU5 region. Despite the enthusiasm for the start of the European football championship, the world of sport continues to experience difficult times: without considering the global pandemic that has disrupted many sports and leisure activities around the world, the reach of the websites and apps of digital sport within the EU5 region has generally remained static since the first quarter of 2020, so even before Covid took over everyone’s daily life.
During the pandemic, occasional fans of sports and fantasy championships tournaments must have moved away from these activities also due to the movement “behind closed doors” of the most famous sporting events. This phenomenon, combined with the complete discontinuation of some minor sports, led to a reduction in the supply of sports content in the first 3 months of 2021 in three EU countries5.
But there are two exceptions to this rule: Spain, where sports content approaches 90% of the total digital audience, and Italy, which is up by 6 percentage points over the previous year. Spaniards and Italians saw sport as a valid escape from reality, despite the unpredictable drama of the lockdown. A trend certainly made more understandable also by the fact that in both these countries, which have always been very sports lovers, three of the most exciting challenges of recent years in important men’s championships have recently taken place: in Spain Atlético Madrid has put an end to the domination by El Clásico after 6 consecutive seasons, as well as in Italy Inter have interrupted a decade of victories for Juventus in the Serie A football championship.
Digital audiences, Comscore notes, have remained active precisely because the usual dynamics and results have not been repeated.
2021 will be characterized by a summer of sport with events such as the Tokyo Olympics and the aforementioned European Football Championships that are taking place after a year of waiting, ready to capture the public and fans with often unpredictable competitions.
Audiences in Italy and the United Kingdom move a lot in the digital environment in search of sports content. The table below shows that there are 13 and 14 sports sites or apps respectively that reach over 5% of the total digital audience. The very high costs of sports distribution rights prevent the formation of a single channel that can meet everyone’s needs for sports content. Furthermore, these varying degrees of fragmentation also reflect a wide variety of country-to-country configurations: in the UK, for example, there is a list of sporting events that are required to be available to the public on free-to-air TV. Loyal visitors to a specific sports site may be forced to resort to other sports content platforms for certain events: Sky Sports, a private cable channel and the leading sports entity in April 2021 in the UK, is a major destination for football content thanks also to its historical influence in the very foundation of the Premier League. On the other hand, the latest rugby news can be accessed on the BBC Sport website, a public and accessible news site freely and free of charge.
In some cases, the easiest way to access some content is to go directly to the specific leagues website.
Football is the dominant sport across Europe, as is evident from the data: the seasonality of digital sports consumption follows the seasonality of football events (See graph below.) From February to May and from August to December in the EU5 region, the quantity greater than minutes spent on sports content, exactly reflecting the seasons of the various European football leagues. The latest “off-season” peak occurred in June 2018 to coincide with the World Cup which took place in Russia at that time, with four of the EU5 countries tuned in to see how their national teams fare. they would get away.
Consumption varies from country to country, also as a consequence of the different winter breaks of the football championships: Germany and France have the interruptions of the championships in January, this means that the basic duration of the activity on sports content is always slightly less than in January because of the week or two week break. Conversely, the Spanish football break is during Christmas at the end of December, so content consumption in January is four full weeks in Spain (while July and December are really below standard figures). There is no winter break in the UK and there is a slight spike in sports consumption every August, coinciding with the start of the football season.
Sport occupies a special place within the habits of Italian users, reaching over 75% of the total digital audience (table 1). For both the 45+ and male demographics, sport is an even higher interest category, with a reach of more than 80%. Women access sports content in Italy with a penetration of 58% of the demographic population, but with a very low level of attention: only 20.3 minutes were spent on average on sports content per visitor in the entire month of April 2021, against 106 in the male segment. This does however mean that there is a great opportunity to expand female engagement with sports content, but the conundrum remains how to do it by maximizing engagement with other demographics.
Football is the undisputed king of sports in Europe, and this is reflected in the data: in the UK, for example, over 21 million people strongly believe in a return to normal sporting events as early as this summer, with the public in attendance. even at the most local competitions.
The NFL (National Football League) has been engaged in the expansion of professional American football to international audiences in recent years and the United Kingdom has responded very positively, so much so that today American football represents the sport with the second digital audience in the UK. in the last year.
Over 10 million people in the UK decided that, unable to leave home due to the lockdown, they would use the web to challenge outsiders to online poker and professional gambling. Running and walking were among the few opportunities available to get out of the house during the lockdown, which explains the 3.5 million Brits who have charted their own walking routes, or simply searched online for information on walking.