There is no true beginning or end to the sports year and many sports’ seasons straddle both ends of the calendar. In that spirit, and in the interest of delivering the most comprehensive analysis, Nielsen has included data from each sport’s latest completed regular season as of January 10, 2010.
The data reveal that we are living in an incredible time for sports consumption. There were over 43,700 hours of live sporting events on broadcast and cable television in 2009. And the continued growth of high definition and satellite TV – now in 33% and 29% of US homes, respectively – made it even easier for fans to follow their favorite teams in amazing clarity no matter where they might be located across the country. The DVR-proof nature of sports continued to entice commercial advertisers who, despite a down economy, spent $7.6 billion on sports programming in the past year.
Sports are also perfectly suited for the current three-screen media age. On average 81 million people in the US visited sports websites each month to keep tabs on their fantasy teams or follow any one of the captivating stories this year. Leagues have used websites, social networks, and smart phones to create a virtual sports bar for fan dialogue to help the buzz surrounding major televised sporting events. That’s why, even in an age with unlimited entertainment options, sports fans still tuned in record numbers for the big games. 2009 saw the most watched Super Bowl (98.7 million viewers) ever, the most watched Stanley Cup in 7 years (4.5 million), and the most watched World Series in 5 years (19.1 million).
2009 proved that the sports industry is incredibly resilient, adapting quickly to the rapidly changing media and economic environment, and is now thoroughly prepared to thrive in this new climate.