Engaging future generations of sport fans is about more than the free-to-air TV debate

Engaging future generations of sport fans is about more than the free-to-air TV debate

Women’s soccer is very much a sport on the up: record attendances, record sponsorship spend, and potentially record marketing activation spend has meant that 2019 could represent the moment when the women’s game was able to truly stand on its own two feet, separate from the men’s game.

For cricket, the story is very different. Since the 2005 Ashes win – a modern high-point for the game in the UK – attendances have been in steady decline, along with broadcast reach

Headlines have been grabbed in the last few weeks as matches featuring the Lionesses continually break UK viewing records for women’s soccer matches (6.9 million tuned into their last 16 win versus Cameroon on BBC2), whereas the England men’s Cricket World Cup match versus Bangladesh only managed an audience of around 681,000.

In direct reaction to this, Sky Sports are now considering allowing the Cricket World Cup Final to be shown on one of its few Freeview channels, or offering a free Now TV day-pass, allowing a much greater audience to have access.

Free-to-air television has long since been held up as the silver bullet when it comes to the challenge of returning cricket to its place as England’s summer sport. Much of the commentary on the Cricket World Cup thus far has focused on this issue, often very critical in tone about the decision of the tournament to be on Sky, and the missed chance to reach a new generation of fans.

Simply put, linear TV is no longer the best way to reach the next generation of sports fans. In fact, the average minutes of TV viewed per day has declined rapidly over the last decade or so, amongst almost all age groups.

Beyond the fact that we as a society are no longer switching the TV on as regularly, or for as long, is the fact that actual ownership of TVs has declined, with only 67% reporting household access in comparison to 73% for a computer, or 94% for a mobile phone.

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