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Are Premier League viewing figures worth the worry?

We recently highlighted the >decline in Premier League viewing figures, with a 19% drop in the number of viewers tuning in for flagship broadcasts year-on-year (YoY). This wouldn’t have made pretty reading for Sky and BT given the record multi-billion pound deals they brokered for the viewing rights. Viewership for BT Sport’s European coverage is also yo-yoing on each game day. But with the likes of Manchester United playing on a Thursday in the Europa League and Leicester flying high in the Champions League this is less surprising, with the status quo being shattered last season.

Under closer scrutiny, is this a false story or is there legitimate cause for concern? Rather than isolating individual games and judging their viewing figures, there are many factors to consider here:

  • When the match is played: Sky occasionally schedules matches on Fridays alongside the Saturday lunchtime game, Super Sundays and Monday Night Football.
  • Who is playing: The current narrative is that the higher ‘quality’ fixtures featuring the bigger teams are yet to be played, which will only help boost audience sizes later in the year.
  • Other clashing broadcasts: For example, the final week of the Olympics and the vast diversity of Sky’s sports portfolio: Formula 1 as well as major Cricket, Tennis, Rugby and Golf tournaments, all fighting against each other for audience share.

Given these considerations, we still expect viewing figures to rise throughout the season. The natural drama associated with the culmination of the Premier League season will not be ignored. And when we delve into Sky Sports’ overall portfolio delivery data, we see that both weekday and weekend audiences have actually grown by 13% and 11% respectively YoY since the start of the season. So, while the season may have started slowly, live games are still attracting more overall viewers to their stations than at the same period in 2015.

This is good news for us. Big live events only work for a handful of brands where the programming matches their male target audience. We see strong results across many business sectors from the daytime repeats of these big events and other sports programming. Although the press is painting a bleak picture, we can sleep easy knowing that the programmes that deliver for us are growing in size. This gives us yet more opportunities to drive efficient acquisitions.

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