Apple TV+ Users Like Sports Much More Than the Average Streaming Viewer
Apple’s potential to grow a league’s fandom is probably going unnoticed because Apple TV+ quietly has an uniquely sports-hungry user base.
About 3 in 4 weekly Apple TV+ users watch sports, a figure higher than that of weekly users of nearly all other major video streaming services, per Morning Consult Audience data.
Apple TV+ still has one of the smallest content catalogs, meaning a league’s games would stand out on the streamer far more than they would on a platform like Netflix or Max.
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Apple’s goal of operating a go-to sports streaming hub is no secret. Since 2022, the company has committed to spending hundreds of millions annually on MLB and MLS media rights. Apple’s docuseries on Inter Miami superstar Lionel Messi, which premiered earlier this month, has helped generate buzz for its MLS broadcasts.
However, one major roadblock in Apple’s path to becoming a sports streaming giant — beyond its prioritization of global rights and deals that let it influence games’ presentation — is Apple TV+’s limited subscriber base. The company doesn’t disclose streaming subscriber numbers, but Morning Consult data shows Apple TV+ is still one of the smallest video streamers by reach.
Apple TV+ Users Are Avid Fans of Sports
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This discourages entities like the NFL from wanting to distribute many games exclusively on Apple TV+, but our research shows that sports leagues should reconsider. The share of weekly Apple TV+ users who watch sports (76%) was higher than that of all U.S. adults (61%) and weekly users of nearly all other major video streaming services, per Morning Consult Audience data. Moreover, the share of Apple TV+ users who bet on sports was higher than that of all adults and users of nearly all other major streamers; Apple’s streamer similarly overindexed in terms of reaching those who play sports.
In other words, Apple’s ability to grow a league’s fan base is likely being overlooked because Apple TV+ quietly has an unusually sports-hungry user base. This helps explain why subscription research firm Antenna found that about half of MLS Season Pass subscriptions were existing Apple TV+ subscribers.
Many Apple TV+ viewers are receptive to MLS matches and sports more broadly because this user base uniquely skews male. Men generally exhibit more interest in sports than women: In September, 74% of men said they were a fan of sports in general, while 49% of women said the same. That Apple is already reaching sports fans, especially streaming viewers who are younger than those frequenting linear TV, should help the tech giant pitch itself to leagues that have historically discounted it because of its small reach.
Of Major Streamers, Apple TV+ Skews Toward Men Most
The leagues Apple TV+ should partner with next
Basketball seems like a great fit for the service. Eddy Cue, Apple services senior vice president, is a true hoops fan, and the NBA is uniquely positioned to soon seek out more exclusive streaming deals, in addition to being a league that stands out for its Gen Z appeal.
Meanwhile, locking down some sort of American football broadcasts should remain a priority for Apple. The NFL continues to dominate linear TV ratings, and Morning Consult data shows that among all adults, the popularity of college football rivals that of the NBA. A discussed streaming deal between Apple and the Pac-12 that reportedly came close to materializing now looks like an even bigger missed opportunity for the collegiate conference.
A less obvious benefit of partnering with Apple is that a league’s games would stand out on Apple TV+ more than they would on a platform like Netflix or Max. Apple TV+ easily still has one of the smallest content catalogs, and shies away from licensing the 100-plus episode series like “Suits” and “Friends” that generate hundreds of millions of viewing hours. Apple is unlikely to shift away from its quality-over-quantity strategy, given Wall Street is more concerned with the giant’s hardware sales than its streaming strategy, so this should continue to benefit sports on Apple for the foreseeable future.
Kevin Tran is the senior media & entertainment analyst on the Industry Intelligence team, where he conducts research, authors analyst notes and advises leaders in the media & entertainment industry on how to apply insights to make better business decisions. Prior to Morning Consult, Kevin was a media analyst at Variety Intelligence Platform, Variety’s premium subscription service. Kevin graduated from the Haas School of Business undergraduate program at the University of California, Berkeley. @ktran223
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