A deep dive into why sports fans are watching fewer games

A deep dive into why sports fans are watching fewer games

When I saw the release from WVU on Oct. 12, my eyebrows raised a little.

The Mountaineer athletic department is allowing 25 percent of capacity into Milan Puskar Stadium for the Kansas game. Season ticket holders had the first opportunity to snag those tickets.

Yet the department then had to offer tickets to the general public.

A day later, a text from a good friend popped into my phone asking my thoughts about the Mountaineers.

They are 2-1, you know. After wiping out Eastern Kentucky, they lost by 27-13 to now-No. 7 Oklahoma State and defeated Baylor 27-21.

My response was WVU should win 5-6 games, but that I was having trouble getting into it with Covid-19 swirling around college football.

“Not sure of the reason,” he texted, “but me too. Going to the game this weekend though. Maybe that will help.”

It’s not just us, though. reported a 61 percent drop in viewership for the Stanley Cup Final as well as drops of 56 percent for the Preakness and U.S. Open golf final round, 49 percent for the NBA Finals and on and on.

“There’s just too much at once!” tweeted Stewart Mandel of The Athletic.

There’s a lot. There’s the NFL, college football, Major League Baseball playoffs, etc. Yet more and more of us are tuning out.

Why? Why, when we were so desperate for sports content just a few months ago?

Well, on Wednesday, the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion released a poll that tries to describe why “different demographic groups ascribe different reasons for their decreased interest and viewership.”

In my case, the reason is simple: Covid-19. So far, we haven’t been able to corral it and it’s cast uncertainty around games and seasons. How can I get excited when I don’t know if a season or even a game will be carried out?

Yet the Marist poll offered more – even that “red and blue political divide impacts fandom.”

That took me by surprise, but Marist asked sports fans if viewing the impact of athletes’ calls for racial justice made an impact. Seventy percent of Republicans said they are less likely to watch live sports for that reason. Sixty-one percent of Democrats and a plurality of Independents (47 percent) said athletes speaking out has not changed their viewing habits.

On the flip side, 27 percent of black sports fans say they are watching live sports broadcasts more often because of the calls for justice.

The poll was fascinating. One in five sports fans said coverage of the 2020 election has taken precedence over live sports broadcasts. Some (19 percent) said changes to rules and game experience has decreased interest. Also, 19 percent said the free time they now have is a cause for a decline in viewership.

“Whatever the reason, far fewer people are making sports a priority during a fall in which many can’t gather together in large groups, and where bars and restaurants nationally may have reduced indoor capacity due to the coronavirus,” said Jane McManus, Director of the Marist Center.

Perhaps Dr. Zachary Arth, Assistant Professor of Sports Communication at Marist, said it best.

“It’s a whole combination of factors,” he said.

Whatever that combination, though, I want my sports mojo back. Stat.

+ + +

Mitch Vingle covered sports in West Virginia for 38 years. Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle and be sure to check out the rest of Wheelhouse Creative’s website for your marketing and advertising needs. If interested, call us at 304-905-6005.







16 Cypress Avenue, Wheeling, WV 26003

One Gateway Center, 420 Fort Duquesne Blvd., Suite 1875, Pittsburgh, PA 15222

© 2019, Wheelhouse Creative, LLC. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.