Survey Ranks Top Sports Among TV Viewers

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With this summer's strikes hurting the flow of new content into TV and streaming platforms, live sports have become an even more important programming staple, with 70% of Americans saying they watch live sports, according to a new survey from

The survey also ranked the importance of the various sporting leagues, with the NFL, not surprisingly ranking as the #1 most-watched live sport, with 65% of live sports fans watching it regularly,  followed by the NBA (#2) at 50%, and MLB (#3) at 42% viewership.

Other sports in the top ten include college football (#4) and basketball (#5), NASCAR (#6), NHL Hockey (#7), Formula 1 Racing (#8), UFC (#9), and Bellator Mixed Martial Arts (Bellator MMA) (#10), according to

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The survey also found that tuning in via cable and satellite is still the most popular way to watch, with 35% of live sports fans subscribing to cable or satellite providers for their favorite sports. But Americans are increasingly accessing live sports via streaming platforms, with 28% of Americans using streaming services to watch live sports. Amazon Prime Video is the most popular streaming service for live sports, with 51% of live sports fans using it, reported. 

Usage of streaming services also varies by age according to More than half (52%) of Millennials use on-demand streaming services to watch live sports, compared to only 12% of Boomers. Alternatively, 60% of Boomers use satellite or TV to watch live sports, compared to only 35% of Millennials. 

90% of sports fans know where they can watch local sports teams in their area, but only 40% know what a regional sports network is. 

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The survey found that the most popular regional sports networks (RSNs) include: Fox Sports Regional Networks (25% subscribe), NBC Sports (22% subscribe, now operating as Bally Sports), Bally Sports ( 8.80%), AT&T SportsNet (9.24%), and Spectrum SportsNet (Los Angeles Lakers channel, 7.65% subscribe). About 50% of Americans did not have a RSN locally available or did not subscribe to one. 

The survey also found that 55% are willing to pay extra for channels to watch local sports teams in their area. 

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.