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Sports Program Engagement

Oct 16, 2006  •  Post A Comment

From IAG Research



Until now, our studies of engagement have focused on viewer response to entertainment programming. Turning to sports programming viewership, our daily measures reveal varying degrees of engagement within that genre, just as we found among entertainment shows.

Of course, sports appear across a number of networks, but for this issue we chose to examine engagement on ESPN, which telecasts a notably broad range of sports programs. Data are based on hundreds of thousands of surveys taken by viewers of ESPN programs over the past year and a half.

Very broadly speaking, older viewers are somewhat more engaged with program content than younger viewers. But as one might expect, there is variation by genre and by program. In analyzing ESPN, our goal was to find out which sport genres exhibited the strongest engagement across two age cohorts and upper-income viewers.

The period for this analysis included programming appearing on ESPN between 6 p.m to midnight Monday through Sunday, between Jan. 1, 2005, and Sept. 17, 2006. Sports types, such as NFL football or Major League Baseball games, were aggregated together, while sports shows like “Baseball Tonight” were counted as separate programs but included as well. We also limited the analysis to ongoing programs, rather than one-time or very short-run events.

The rankings do not reveal which shows or genres achieved the highest absolute engagement, rather, sports programming that had a spike among certain groups of viewers. For example, affluent viewers of NCAA baseball were notably more engaged than other viewers. In fact, several college sports showed higher engagement for upscale viewers (compared to all other viewers): NCAA baseball, NCAA football, and women’s NCAA basketball.

Among younger viewers, the highest-indexing shows included the “Battle of the Gridiron Stars” and ESPN’s news and information show “NFL Primetime,” along with NBA basketball. Little League baseball and ESPN’s “NBA Shootaround” scored higher engagement among viewers ages 35-plus.