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Over half of sports fans watching pirate services

Over half of sports fans in 10 countries watch pirated services at least once a month, according to research carried out for technology firm Synamedia by Ampere Analysis.

According to the report, Charting Global Sports Piracy, while 89% of sports fans have a payTV or subscription OTT service, 51% still watch pirate sports services at least once a month.

Of those who regularly view illegal sports content, 42% watch sports fixtures on a daily basis. According to the report, this level of viewing is over 60% higher than the average sports fan, suggesting there may be an opportunity for operators to increase their revenues with targeted sports offerings to tempt those viewers to sign up for legitimate services.

The report identified three basic clusters of sports fans. Some 26% are classified as ‘loyal stalwarts’, found disproportionately in countries where football is popular. This group believes it is wrong to watch pirate sports content but 35% still do it at least weekly.  This group would be prepared to top up their sports subscriptions if they could legitimately access all the content they want to watch on any device, according to the report.

Some 31% are classified as ‘fickle superfans; who live mostly in developing markets. Almost all consume pirate sports content, with 89% doing so at least weekly. The report argues that this group could successfully be targeted with flexible packages across a range of sports or by offering multiscreen access with flexible terms.

The third group identified by the research are ‘casual spectators’, amounting to 43% of the total. These consumers don’t follow league sports but typically watch major sporting events such as the Olympic Games, the Superbowl and tennis grand slams.  They are the least likely group to pay for a legitimate sports TV subscription, and 17% say they watch illegal content at least weekly. The report suggests that they may be targeted with flexible payment models and pay-to-view access.

Simon Brydon, senior director, sports rights anti-piracy at Synamedia, said, “Global spend on TV sports rights is set to total almost US$50 billion in 2020. Protecting these revenues and keeping sports on screens requires a deeper understanding of the evolving piracy landscape and a cogent response. This initial research into what motivates sports fans to access illegal streams establishes a baseline for a more nuanced and targeted approach to combatting piracy. Our ambition is to help sports rights holders and operators apply a more forensic approach that drives up legitimate revenues, reduces sports’ fans reliance on illegal streams and takes the wind out of the pirates’ sails.”