Why do we love sports? It’s a fascinating question that has a multitude of answers. We’ve decided to create a series that examines the many reasons why people like sports. In part one, we are going to take a look at viewership.
With the Super Bowl only a week away and millions of people expected to tune into the Big Game, I decided to look into why exactly people watch sports. As we know, sports are a huge business. Forbes estimates that the sports industry in North America alone will be worth over $70 billion in 2019. That is incredible, and the main driving force in the value of sport has been record-breaking media contracts. In 2018, the NFL and Fox agreed to a five-year, $3 billion dollar broadcast rights deal, and the NFL also has broadcast deals with ABC, NBC, and CBS totaling an estimated $39.6 billion. The NFL isn’t the only sport rolling in broadcast money, though. The NBA’s TV rights deal is worth an astounding $24 billion, and even the MLB, which is a sport in decline, has a $12.4 billion dollar rights deal. So why are these TV stations shelling out the big bucks to broadcast sports? Well, it has to do with the viewership of sport.
What motivates fans to watch sports? One study looked at the factors that motivate sports broadcast viewership, with fan identification as the mediator (Hu, A.W. & Tang, L. 2010). Fan identification, which is a strong predictor of sports fan consumption behavior, is defined as the personal commitment and emotional involvement a person has with a sport (Milne & McDonald, 1999). The results of the study found that entertainment, self-esteem, and eustress (beneficial stress) had a positive effect on fan identification and therefore positively affected viewing behavior (Hu, A.W. & Tang, L. 2010). The study also found that the most motivating factors for viewers were entertainment, excitement, and supporting sportspeople from their own country (Hu, A.W. & Tang, L. 2010).
In layman’s terms, what this study illustrates is that we watch sports to be entertained. We identify with a sport, team, or individual, and we watch them compete because it excites us. The uncertainty of sports helps to create a product that is both engaging and exciting. It’s one of the few forms of media that needs to be watched live, and when watching something live, we don’t know what the outcome is going to be. That excites viewers in ways that most other forms of media can’t compare to. So, while many people say they are watching the Big Game for the commercials, know that we are watching because sports, whether you like or hate them, are exciting and entertaining. They grip viewers in ways that can’t be written, and thus are some of the most enjoyable experiences.
Part two will be coming soon, so stay tuned to Onenie for the next installment of our Why We Love Sports series.