Live streaming for sporting events has been widely available to consumers ever since Hulu began offering live sports as part of its new live TV streaming service in 2017. But it’s taken a few years for the masses of sports-viewing audiences to embrace viewing options outside of their traditional broadcast and cable TV options.

Even in 2022, the majority of sports-viewing audiences globally—about 55 percent—either watch live sports exclusively through their TV subscriptions, or they subscribe to both TV and streaming services to maximize their viewing options. At the same time, the number of streaming services offering live sports viewing has dramatically increased, while early adopters of streaming—including Hulu and ESPN, both of which are streaming properties owned by Disney—have gradually expanded the number of live sports broadcasts offered on their platforms.

As live sports streaming continues to gain in popularity, connected TV and TV Everywhere services have also expanded their streaming offerings to deliver better viewing options, improved supplemental content, and to help their audiences enjoy exactly the live sports events they’re seeking. Because of this, 2022 is expected to see sports audiences embrace live-streaming at new record-setting levels.

Curious how these viewing trends may affect your digital advertising strategy? Read on for three timely predictions about the future of live sports streaming.

1. Most Sports Fans Have More Than One Way to Watch

As industry-leading streaming services expand their live sports options, other services are also entering the arena and making a play at winning over sports-loving audiences. This includes connected TV experiences as well as ad-supported streaming content.

During the 2022 Winter Olympics, for example, NBC’s Peacock streaming service became a destination for live sports audiences through two versions of its over-the-top streaming service. The free version of Peacock’s streaming Olympics content is available for any user with a paid TV subscription—including live content that may not be available through that account-holder’s cable TV service.

The NCAA March Madness tournament is another example of how diverse viewing options draw a bigger, more engaged audience. With parts of the tournament taking place during the traditional work day, March Madness uses both cable TV broadcasts and streaming to desktop and mobile devices to provide easy viewing options at any time of day. Whether you’re at home, a sports bar, the office or even riding the train to work, you can watch live tournament games as well as supplemental content to follow all of the latest action.

In some cases, sports fans are also taking advantage of new streaming options available through platforms to which they already subscribe. The NFL’s recent streaming agreements with Amazon, for example, are increasing the value of Amazon Prime to football fans who already subscribe to this service. This creates a more fractured audience viewing the same sports broadcast through a wider range of platforms—in many cases, the platform that offers the best user experience.

2. App-Based Experiences are Enhancing Viewer Experiences

Live sports is the centerpiece of the typical sports fan’s viewing experience, but it isn’t the only aspect of that experience that matters.

Supplemental content—which can range from second-screen experiences to related videos and content recommendations through a streaming app or connected TV service—has also distinguished itself for its ability to enrich a live sports broadcast by providing and recommending additional content those audiences would be interested in viewing.

Services like TV Everywhere enable this kind of enhanced experience by creating sports dashboards that may package live sports streams with previously recorded content, interviews, and other supplemental videos. This gives sports fans a more comprehensive destination to satisfy all of their viewing needs.

3. Live Sports Streaming is Helping Niche Audiences Find Their Team

As live sports streaming becomes more and more mainstream, the value of providing streaming options to small sporting events has also increased in value. Beyond major streaming deals struck by the NFL and Major League Baseball, other sports leagues—including the NHL, WNBA, and even the WWE and international soccer leagues—have also struck lucrative streaming deals to expand access to these events.

Similar streaming deals are also likely to trickle down to small sports organizations, including mid-major college sports conferences and smaller sporting events whose niche audiences could still represent a promising streaming opportunity—especially for subscription-based platforms eager to increase their active user base.

For all of the benefits and flexibility streaming offers to live sports fans, it isn't perfect. Many streaming services deliver live sports streams at a delayed pace compared to the real-time delivery of broadcast and cable TV, meaning many sports fans still prefer to watch on cable when possible. But that just means including both streaming ads and traditional cable TV ads in your advertising strategy is the best path to successfully reaching your sports-fan audience.

As audiences move to different streaming options to enjoy live sports broadcasts, local businesses should remain on the lookout for opportunities to reach their target audience through cost-effective, innovative digital advertising options. A digital advertising partner can help you track these new ad opportunities and harness them to boost awareness for your brand.

Find out how Cox Media can help you reach the right sports audience. Contact us today to get started.