The streaming landscape has been evolving at a rapid pace, and the newest evolution is going to be one of the most disruptive shifts in television in decades. Year after year, live sporting events drive consistent TV viewership. Just this past year, 95 of the 100 most viewed programs on television were live sports. The rights to broadcast these sports leagues have traditionally been held by the largest broadcast cable companies such as CBS, NBC, or FOX. However there has been an increase in streaming services outbidding these companies and winning the rights to stream live sports directly on their platforms. Some of the recent live sports to be bought by streaming services include:

  • Amazon Prime purchasing the rights to Thursday Night Football
  • YouTube TV purchasing the rights to NFL Sunday Ticket
  • The CW purchasing the rights to LIV Golf
  • Turner Sports purchasing the rights to U.S. Soccer allowing it to be streamed from HBO Max

What this means for streaming platforms

Streaming services that have acquired live sports will now have the ability to grow their user base by attracting an entirely new audience to their platform. The challenge will be finding ways to retain these users, and get them to stream content beyond the live sports that are offered. One way we might see these services try to do this could be creating content in the style of Netflix’s Formula 1 or HBO’s Hard Knocks around sports in order to create ongoing storylines and more year round fan interest. Creating this niche style of “reality tv” content around sports can ensure there would be some on-demand programming a sports audience would be interested in enough to keep returning to the platform.

Streaming services who are yet to acquire live sports will need to find other ways to continue growing their user base to keep up with the market. To do this, they will need to invest in keeping their content catalog fresh. This path of growth is seemingly much less sustainable. The bidding war for popular TV shows and movies is only getting more expensive and content may only attract an audience for a short period of time before they decide to leave the platform. The alternative option is to invest in original content which is also risky since there isn’t already an existing fan base or interest for originals.

What this means for advertisers

The majority of TV spots during sporting events have historically been bought via upfronts, which most advertisers are not able to access or commit to. Now with the shift of live sports to streaming services, there will be more inventory openly available that can be accessed by a wider range of advertisers. Live sports might become even more attractive to advertisers since some of this inventory will be able to be accessed in a programmatic CTV environment, which will allow for additional targeting capabilities, more flexible planning, and alternative measurement solutions that aren’t available when purchasing linear upfront packages.


The recent wave of live sports transitioning away from broadcast has only just started, and there are still many unknowns. Regardless, both streaming services and advertisers will need to keep adapting as the streaming landscape continues to evolve.