Winning the Attention Game: How to bring Gen-Z back to Live Sports

Younger fans consume sports content in a different way and broadcasters need to be pulling out all the stops to capture a wider, younger demographic and bring Gen-Z back to live sport – but how?

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It’s no secret that younger generations consume media in a  new way in the digital age. Fewer Gen-Z’s are watching traditional live broadcasts and more and more are turning to social media for their sports coverage, news and entertainment. The younger generation looks to platforms such as Instagram, TikTok and YouTube for short-form, informative content as well as direct livestreams from multiple sources and creators.

The statistics are stark. Only 28% of Gen Zs watch sports events live on broadcast compared with 47% of adults overall (Digital Content Next – 2023).

What keeps younger generations from engaging in traditional live broadcast sports? Gen-Z has grown up in an age where information, entertainment and community are available instantly and constantly. This means that younger generations expect instant gratification from the media they consume, so much so that the term ‘born bored’ is often used to describe their declining attention spans. In TV Tech’s 2023 Survey, studies show that fans are ‘ multi-tasking while watching live sports at home’, with ‘77%’ of them engaging in ‘sports-related’ activities on their phones.  For Gen Z, social media and mobile devices aren’t just for talking to friends – they’re using them as tools for almost everything in their daily lives.

So how can Sports Broadcasters, Teams and Federations use the way that younger generations consume media and entertainment to their advantage, and engage the future generations of viewers? How can they hold the attention of the ‘born bored’ generation? For some clues, let’s look at what younger viewers love about the live content they find on new platforms.

Authenticity: younger fans don’t want to be stuck with a single (typically older ex-player’s) view or commentary on the action that doesn’t resonate with them. Sometimes they need a true fan’s perspective, sometimes a younger person’s perspective, sometimes they want their sports experience served up with a helping of humour or fun. The sports action itself is not always enough.

What does this mean for broadcasters? As well as thinking about the mix of talent used in the main sports coverage beyond just ex-pro’s, broadcasters should investigate ways to serve up an alternative commentary or viewpoint on major events. One great way to do this is watchalong or alternate streams, as TNT Sports and DAZN recently added their to their UFC and boxing coverage respectively – featuring younger commentators or comedians. 

TNT Sports – UFC Watch-along

Interactivity: the older generation has grown up with passive one-way broadcasts, where fans are largely excluded from the conversation. This just won’t wash with younger fans. It’s not that all of them want to join the chat or see their opinion on screen – it’s that they expect live coverage to be inherently a social or community event, with consideration and attention given to audience opinion. There was much talk during the pandemic about how important fans were but sadly this is not always evident in how sports present themselves. Younger audiences expect live sports content to be fan-first and two-way.

What does this mean for broadcasters? Any sports broadcaster can make their live content more vibrant, interactive and appealing to younger viewers by incorporating audience comments and opinions from social networks, messaging apps or the broadcaster’s own platforms. Importantly, this should be done in such a way that it feels seamless and not just a bolt-on. Sky Sports, TNT Sports and football clubs like Man City use Dizplai’s platform to do exactly this and use the audience conversation to drive the editorial narrative of their coverage.

TNT Sports – UEFA Champions League coverage

Statistics: Growing up on a diet of video games as well as having access to vast amounts of in-depth analysis of their favourite sports means that younger fans have a much greater appreciation for and ability to consume additional stats and analysis. According to Deloitte’s ‘Immersive Sports Fandom’ report, “46% of Gen Z fans expect real-time stats and analysis to be integrated into their live-view experience”. In the case of football, that could be xG, xA, xGOT, heatmaps, algorithmically generated player ratings… with new stats emerging all the time. What might seem like information overload to an older viewer is a great way to keep a younger viewer engaged and interested.

What does this mean for broadcasters? Adding additional stats to the main broadcast is always a challenge in terms of screen real estate and potentially alienating casual viewers – broadcasters should not be afraid to take risks and introduce their audiences to new types of statistical analysis. Again, additional /alternative livestreams provide an opportunity to present a much richer set of real-time statistical analyses in parallel to the main action. We believe there will be a proliferation of these companion data-rich livestreams to all sports going forward. 

The United Stand – YouTube fan channel

If you’d like to know more about how Dizplai helps broadcasters like Sky Sports, TNT Sports, DAZN, Man City and Leicester City execute their strategies to engage younger audiences, get in touch with us by clicking below

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