Big Sports Moments Can Drive New Audiences to AVOD Streamers

The recently concluded World Cup captured the attention of viewers around the world. More than half the world’s population — an estimated 5 billion people — were expected to watch the tournament, many of whom didn’t consider themselves to be soccer fans when the first kickoff took place on Nov. 20.  

Soccer’s biggest championship didn’t just dominate ratings, however. It proved to be a unifying moment for both avid sports fans and those who normally would have no interest in on-field action. 

New research from Roku — America’s No. 1 TV streaming platform in terms of hours streamed — revealed that even in countries where soccer is not the most-searched sport, interest spiked considerably. And in countries where soccer is followed closely — like the U.K., Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Chile and Venezuela — the jump was even more notable.  

The dramatically-increased interest presents a massive opportunity for marketing specialists.  

“Marketers can reach new audiences as the World Cup brings in users that wouldn’t watch sports otherwise,” says Julia Mandaville, SVOD vertical specialist. “For services with exclusive rights to some or all of the World Cup games, it’s an opportunity to bring in incremental users, expose them to other content and drive familiarity with their offerings.” 

Big Search Spikes 

Searches for “World Cup” in the U.S. grew 476% between 2018 and 2019, and 337% between 2019 to 2022. With the Women’s World Cup — which rates higher than men’s soccer with U.S. audiences — scheduled to take place next July and August, another spike is almost certainly on the horizon.  

“The growth in search interest may indicate that soccer is becoming, or has already become, a mainstream sport here,” says Nicole Cooper, senior lead, audience insights. “The men’s team from the U.S. didn’t qualify for the last men’s World Cup in 2018, so it makes sense that search interest has only grown since then. The women’s team, however, is widely accepted to be the stronger team, so we may see this interest climb higher in 2023.” 

A Big Boost for Ad-Supported Streamers 

Searches for World Cup games largely drove users to ad-supported networks: 28% of users streamed one or more of the games on an AVOD (advertising-based video on demand) service they hadn’t utilized in the past three months or more.  

That information can be helpful when considering other exclusive, high-profile sports events, which can fuel audience growth for ad-supported channels. It doesn’t matter if it’s soccer, baseball, American football or other less traditional sports, such as BMX racing, swimming, boxing or even pickleball. As viewing habits shift to streaming services, those that offer sporting events unavailable elsewhere are likely to attract a younger audience. 

Interest in the World Cup is proof that sufficient buzz about a sporting event can engage audiences. In the U.S., for instance, a different major international multi-sport event held once every four years is the country’s favorite global competition. But as the chatter about soccer’s biggest event ramped up, U.S. fans got curious.  

Worldwide interest, of course, is strong as well. Nearly 67% of World Cup searchers hadn’t searched for any other sports term in the past year. And in many European and South American countries, the numbers were in the 80% and 90% tier.  

Bottom line: Big sporting moments can lure audiences. And while the sports market is increasingly fragmented, by leveraging high-impact events, streamers can drive users to their services that carry the must-see events. 

November’s Top 10 Searches on Roku 

Yes, November is Thanksgiving’s time to shine, but after the past few years, Roku viewers needed the holidays to get here a bit early. While “Yellowstone” topped last month’s list, it was Christmas movies that dominated, mostly of the classic variety. In fact, seven of the top 10 searches were holiday themed — and not the one that revolves around turkey.

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