ESPN+, the American cable network’s subscription-based streaming service, has vastly increased its user base. In April, the number of subscribers to the service reached 13.8 million. Compared to Q1 2019, this represents a 75% year-over-year increase.
The cable network created its ESPN+ service in 2018. ESPN+ is owned by Disney in partnership with ESPN Inc. – a joint venture between Hearst Communications and The Walt Disney Company. ESPN+ is only available in the US and allows users who do not have access to the ESPN cable channel to watch a variety of exclusive content – sports, talk shows, analyses, and so forth.
2019 was a good year for ESPN+. Starting with 1.4 million subscribers in the first quarter, the figure jumped by 370%, reaching 6.6 million by Q1 2020.
While ESPN+ was experiencing awe-inspiring growth, it wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic broke out that the streaming service’s popularity really kicked off. As a result of the pandemic-induced lockdown and sports events held with few or no spectators, sports fans naturally flocked to streaming media. This outcome is similar to how online betting sites largely replaced in-person betting during the same period.
Streaming Is a Favoured Method of Watching Sports for Nearly 40% of Sports Fans, With China Leading the Way
YouGov’s 2021 survey provides us with more insight into just how popular streaming has become. According to their data, nearly 40% of sports fans put down livestreaming as their preferred method of watching sports events. Streaming is most popular in the 18-24 age group, where 47% of participants choose streaming as their primary way of watching sports content. The 25-34 demographic isn’t far behind either, with 45% of respondents preferring to stream sports.
When it comes to country-by-country data on the popularity of sports streaming, China is on top, with 54% of Chinese respondents relying on streaming to watch sports. Following China are Indonesia (50%), Taiwan (49%), and the Philippines (42%).
As the pandemic (hopefully) keeps subsiding, we’re left to see whether other methods, including watching sports events in person, will come back to the fore or if streaming cemented its place as one of the most popular ways of interacting with this type of content.