Digital Media Rights to be main growth area for Sports Rights holders over the next 3-5 years

Digital media rights will be the key driver for the growth of the sports industry over the next five years according to the latest edition of the PricewaterhouseCoopers Sports Survey.

The paper which canvassed the views of 580 industry leaders from 49 countries predicted the digital sector will achieve growth of up to 9.7 per cent. Traditional media streams are estimated to grow at no more than 4.1 per cent per year over the same period.

Overall the sector's growth is expected to slow down to at an annual rate of 6.4% compared to the 7.4% seen in the past 3-5 years.

Despite the positive overall outlook of the PwC paper, it does question whether sports organisations can benefit from online growth due to the control of the major technology firms as content gatekeepers and providers.

The shift away from tradition TV consumption of sport is seen as the biggest threat to revenue streams, with OTT platforms set to play a role in the growth of digital rights, though  rated the current OTT space as being below expectations or disappointing.

More than half of those surveyed in China and Europe were happy to pay for streaming services for the top four sports, while only only 43.5% of non-millenials compared to 52.8% of millenials in the US would pay. 

Among sport-interested millennials in the US, only 38% stream sports online compared with 72% in China and 59% in Europe. The difference is even more striking among non-millennials, with only 12% streaming sports online compared with 48% in China and 40% in Europe. 

This may reflect the strength of the traditional US TV market, while China's strong numbers could be the result of there being fewer linear sports channels available to Chinese fans.

As with the 2018 report, esports, football and besketball are seen as the top three sports in terms of potential to grow revenues.

PwC's head of Sports Business Advisory David Dellea said: "A great number of rights owners, and in particular sports federations, are in need of transforming the way they do business. While different players will be at different stages of progress on this long journey, we hope that the insights in this report are indicative of how to refocus the efforts to effect the changes needed for their organisations to flourish."