Streaming sports hasn’t yet come close to reaching its ceiling. A 2019 study estimated sports streaming would grow from $48.6 billion to $85 billion by 2024. Soccer – the world’s most widely consumed sport – was expected to nearly triple from $12.8 billion to $31.9 billion.
The pandemic accelerated that growth. A study of streaming saw roughly 30 percent growth in time watched YoY between Q3 2019 and Q3 2020. That study estimated the global streaming market would be worth $223.98 billion by 2028.
Cord cutting is a real thing, especially as more people become frustrated by paying for cable packages when they only watch a handful of channels. Many people who primarily watch sports wonder why they’re paying so much money for a hundred channels they don’t watch when they could just pay for an on-demand or live sports streaming service.
From an airline’s perspective this mostly just means flyers want to be able to watch the streaming services they already pay for while they’re on a flight. If a flyer subscribes to ESPN+, NFL Sunday Ticket, NBA League Pass, PGA Tour Live or some other all access or on-demand sports streaming service, they want the ability to watch it wherever they are. That’s especially true if those subscribers are on a flight and want to make the most of their time in the air.
Exclusive Access to In-Flight Sport Networks
Sport 24 is one of the few concerted forays into a sports network exclusive to travelers in the air or at sea. The only domestic U.S. carrier to offer Sport 24 currently is American Airlines, but more than a dozen other carriers across the world (AeroMexico, Emirates, Etihad, Fiji, Lufthansa) offer this exclusive sports network.
Sport 24 has partnered with the vast majority of sports organizations, from the NFL and NBA to the Premier League, PGA and NHL.
Sport 24 is not an on-demand streaming service. Rather it’s more akin to an ESPN in the air and on cruise ships. Having access to Sport 24 is a great perk for passengers who don’t subscribe to any type of on-demand sports streaming service or those who might not have broadband on a flight to watch their services.
While Sport 24 is a great innovation that will appeal to some passengers, it’s unclear whether its inclusion as an IFEC options will significantly impact carrier brand loyalty. Chances are things like ticket price, Wi-Fi and comfort are going to be bigger selling points than access to an exclusive sports channel.
Getting Access to Satellite TV in the Air
The same technology that satellite broadband relies on to keep passengers connected can be used to push traditional television into the cabins of business jets and private planes. IFEC equipment, like inflight antennas and cabin routers, can potentially be used to connect into television networks that are traditionally known for terrestrial television.
But these types of technologies are quickly become antiquated in the eyes of flyers. With more people cutting the cord and relying solely on subscriptions to streaming and on-demand services, the dependence on services like DirecTV are becoming less common. We may start to see fewer airlines using traditional network-style IFEC solutions and instead partner directly with the NFL, PGA, Premier League or NBA to provide passengers on-demand or exclusive live access to the sports they want to watch.
A Game Driven Atmosphere Opportunity for IFE
Sports are exciting and tend to bring the community together. Live sports onboard a flight provides an opportunity to enhance the passenger’s in-flight experience. Aircrafts, especially private jets, business jets and charter planes, can integrate entertainment systems and technologies that ensure a great live game viewing experience. Optimal sound systems, high-quality television screens, perfect lighting and comfortable cabins designed to enhance the atmosphere can play a role in passenger enjoyment.