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Monetizing Online Sports: A View from GlobalWebIndex

Across the world, millions of football-mad internet users are watching Premier League matches online. But how many might be convinced to pay for coverage of their favorite sports?

At GlobalWebIndex, we believe the prospects for monetizing this audience are strong. Drawing on the world’s largest on-going study into the digital consumer, our latest research on Premier League fans – covering 32 markets, 200,000 individuals per year and almost 90% of the world’s internet population – shows that some 16% of online adults are catching Premier League games online.

What’s more, 6 in 10 of those who identify themselves as Premier League Fans say they’re watching some form of sports program online each month. And about a third are going online to catch games from other European leagues, such as La Liga, the Bundesliga or Serie A.

Look at the figures on a regional basis, though, and it’s clear that Asia is pretty key to this trend. The Premier League is wildly popular among the online populations of many Asian countries, where online viewing is booming. As many as a quarter of internet users in Vietnam and Thailand are watching Premier League games online, for example. And in China, almost as many people are watching games online (31%) as are tuning in via a TV (34%).

Premier League Viewers Demographics


Source: GlobalWebIndex Q4 2014, Base: Internet Users Aged 16-64

Age has a big impact here too, with younger fans at the very forefront of the trend. Globally, 16-24s are in fact about four times as likely as 55-64s to be watching the Premier League online.

Even so, one fairly crucial question remains: will Premier League Fans part with their cash to obtain online sports coverage?

Well, firstly, it’s important to note that Premier League Fans are more likely than the average internet user to be paying for online content. About a quarter pay for a TV streaming service monthly, for example.

Secondly, Premier League Fans around the globe are clearly eager to access high-quality online sports coverage. Globally, 4 in 10 have used a VPN/Proxy Server, allowing them to access content like sports coverage that is officially geo-restricted. Fans in Asia are leading this trend – half in Indonesia and Taiwan have used a VPN, with Turkey (44%) and Thailand (43%) also posting high figures.

Many still assume that VPN users are turning to these tools in order to grab content for free. In actual fact, GlobalWebIndex’s research shows that VPN users are much more likely than average to pay for most forms of digital content. Primarily, then, this is a question of availability rather than cost. Give VPN users proper/easier forms of access to digital content and revenues are likely to follow. And that’s pretty important food-for-thought when it comes to monetizing online sports coverage in Asia in particular.

By Felim McGrath, trends analyst at GlobalWebIndex. 

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