Cord cutting—the process of cancelling paid TV service—which began in roughly 2010 has continued to proliferate to the tune of 3.4% of subscribers cancelling year over year during Q4 2017. These cancellations have likely affected the mediated viewership of major sports since sports programming is a significant driver of cable subscriptions. Available viewership data from the various leagues cut in both directions—NFL television viewership is down almost 10 percent season over season in 2017, but NBA viewership is up by upwards of 20 percent. So it is unclear whether cord cutting represents a decline in interest the sports themselves or merely paid television viewing of certain sports.
Since sports watching is a form of socializing, some fans might decide to watch at a friend’s place or at a bar, thus obscuring the measurement of sports fan television viewership. Of course, the ultimate social gathering among fans is actually attending a live game. If, in fact, in-venue attendance has been stable throughout the decline in television viewership, it would suggest that merely television interest, rather than overall interest, has declined. Moreover, if overall interest is stable it stands to reason that people are finding other ways to take in games. Indeed, FanWide’s tracking of millions of sports fans across tens of thousands of viewing locations suggests that fan interest and fan viewership may be related, but ultimately distinct, concepts.
This is the first in a series of posts that will describe a theory of sports fan viewership, model that theory, and ultimately unveil a patent pending FanWide product based on the model that will allow sports stakeholders to accurately measure and report total fan viewership. Our next posts will take a look at fan attendance in the major sports.