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What motivates sports fans to access illegal streams, Synamedia’s first global research finds

Fifty-one per cent watch pirate sports services at least once a month

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MUMBAI: Independent video software provider Synamedia today unveiled the first in a series of trailblazing reports designed to broaden understanding of global sports piracy in order to protect the value of sports rights.

The charting global sports piracy report draws on results from a 10-country study of over 6,000 sports fans conducted by Ampere Analysis. It finds that while 89 per cent of sports fans have a pay-TV or subscription OTT service, over half (51 per cent) still watch pirate sports services at least once a month. Furthermore, of those who regularly view illegal sports content, 42 per cent watch sports fixtures on a daily basis. This is over 60 per cent higher than the average sports fan. This suggests there is a considerable opportunity for operators to drive incremental revenues with targeted sports offerings.

Notably, the report segments sports fans for the first time based on their attitudes to, and consumption of, pirate sports content.  For operators and rights holders, understanding these nuances provides a springboard from which to reduce the appeal of illegal content and encourage greater uptake of legitimate services. A detailed assessment of different approaches to combating sports piracy will be covered in subsequent reports.

Synamedia has identified three main groups of sports fans (segmented into five distinct clusters in the report):

Loyal Stalwarts (26 per cent of respondents): Found disproportionately in soccer-mad nations, these armchair fans are big viewers of pay-TV sport. Almost all believe it’s wrong to watch pirate sports content yet more than a third (35 per cent) still do it at least weekly.  As diehard fans, they would be prepared to top up their sports subscriptions if they could legitimately access all the content they want to watch on any device - both at home and on the move.

Fickle Superfans (31 per cent): Living mainly in developing markets, these multi-screen fans have a huge appetite for a wide range of national and international sports and all consume pirate sports content, with 89 per cent doing so at least weekly. They might pay more for legitimate sports services if they could access more flexible packages, a broader range of sports, or multiscreen services with frictionless onboarding and flexible terms.

Casual spectators (43 per cent): These consumers don’t follow league sports but love watching major sporting events such as the Olympic Games, the Superbowl and tennis grand slams. The least likely group to pay for a legitimate sports TV subscription, almost a fifth (17 per cent) say they watch illegal content at least weekly, despite their lower levels of interest relative to the other segments. They are likely to be lured away from pirate streams by "light" access to tournaments, flexible payment models, and pay-to-play access to big events.

Analysis of the attitudes and behaviour of viewers within each cluster holds the key to a renewed anti-piracy drive. One important element in the fight-back is the adoption of flexible solutions and services - such as those from Synamedia - that offer the freedom to target specific clusters of fans with an appealing mix of access and payment models, as well as disrupting pirates’ ecosystems.

Simon Brydon, senior director, sports rights, anti-piracy at Synamedia, said, “Global spend on TV sports rights is set to total almost $50bn in 2020. Protecting these revenues and keeping sports on screens requires a deeper understanding of the evolving piracy landscape and a cogent response. This initial research into what motivates sports fans to access illegal streams establishes a baseline for a more nuanced and targeted approach to combating piracy. Our ambition is to help sports rights holders and operators apply a more forensic approach that drives up legitimate revenues, reduces sports’ fans reliance on illegal streams and takes the wind out of the pirates’ sails.”

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