Mateo Vasquez ’21
With everyone being home amidst the pandemic, the world of sports has had to adapt to many foreseen obstacles that are starting to show long-term effects. During 2020, many had the expectation that sports viewership would increase and actually break past records for viewership. However, that has not been the case when surveying data from the NFL, NBA, and the NHL. These leagues have seen a sharp decline in viewership. While for a long time Americans went without having any sports, the return to play in June and July was expected to have a higher turnout in overall viewership, but many TV partners were still disappointed with the turnout. The Stanley Cup Finals alone experienced a 61% decline in viewership. Additionally, this year set a record for the least watched World Series in history. It is obvious to say that how we view sports has changed for many viewers. Many analyses contribute to the decline to the overall timing of events and quite frankly the overstimulation. The disruption and overlap between seasons was a new experience that divided attention across the leagues.
All of this coupled with the ease of streaming services and a shift away from cable broadcast took a toll on many companies and their approach to how sports is being delivered to the common viewer. As one analysis stated there is almost no need to watch a game live because of the ease of streaming it at another time and tuning in whenever someone wants. Prior to the pandemic, sports were a part of every day life and many people’s daily schedules. However now, since many are absent a schedule, interaction with sports is not the same.
With the pandemic continuing and with numbers staying rather consistent as of now, it remains a rather low possibility that there will be a change in viewership trends. Part of the big connections with sports is someone’s own participation.
Dr. Dorsch of the University of Utah states that with the decline in sports participation and intercollegiate games across the U.S., there is less opportunity for people to make that connection to leagues. He goes on to state that depending on where individuals may live, there are areas that might not have had access to sports for a year. Because of this, many are stating that as more events open up and competition becomes available there is an opportunity for sports to rally as a whole, yet the change will not be imminent for quite some time. The results of the pandemic could take years to bounce back from and for some areas of the country, have changed the views of many on the subject of sports forever. The wide world of sports will have to adjust and sports’ viewership is now attempting to make these new adjustments. The next few years will be critical in seeing how the culture that surrounds sports moves forward. With ESPN already seeing a 42% decline in their viewership of 12-17 year-olds that identify as “avid sports fans,” focus has shifted to the next generations in an attempt to reach a level of engagement that has not existed since pre-pandmeic times.