Baby boomers, who have left their mark on pretty much every corner of society, are now reaching retirement age, are living longer and are in better health than their predecessors. This demographic evolution means that the number of people over 65 will double in the next 25 years. In turn, this will lead to significant economic changes and will also represent a huge challenge to event promoters, who will have to adapt their offering to attract new visitors or spectators on site and appeal to new television audiences.
We know that young people are the primary public when it comes to live events.
Though we are nowhere near an apocalypse—no one is predicting a massive erosion of live events—the changes will be significant enough to force organizations to adapt in order to minimize the negative effects. On one hand, the aging population affects how people consume entertainment, and, on the other hand, the challenge of attracting a younger audience is becoming more of an issue for the sustainability of events.
Because baby boomers represent a large part of the population and have considerable wealth at their disposal, promoters can’t simply turn their backs on this aging clientele. A number of changes will need to be implemented to ensure that this target is comfortable, like maximizing seating and improving the quality of seats, presenting information in a legible fashion on site and improving transit.
Another consequence of the current demographic shift is that major events that have drawn huge turnouts in the past may see those crowds thin out in the coming years. Newer events arriving on the scene will be more niche in nature and won’t reach the same attendance levels as the larger-scale events did in previous years.
Professional American sports organizations tend to draw very homogenous audiences. That said, the NBA seems better poised for the future with 45% of its television viewers aged 35 or less. On the other end of the spectrum—and this will come as no surprise—the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) has the oldest viewership (63% of its television viewers are aged 55+) and the lowest number of young viewers.
The sporting events that attract an older viewing TV public will need to reach younger audiences if they want to ensure the viability of their business model. This also means finding new channels that appeal to a younger demographic. They will have to move beyond the traditional model that is based on the sale of rights to broadcasters who, in turn, sell ad space. Though this model is nowhere near dying— we mentioned earlier that 95% of sports-related content is still consumed live—a number of young households no longer have cable and don’t have access to the content broadcast via that platform.
Within this context, some sports organizations are finding interesting ways to get on younger viewers’ radars. The MotoGP series is an interesting case in that it has opted for a more open broadcast model that gives fans the chance to watch the races on various platforms and at different times or to stick with the traditional TV model. MotoGP doesn’t publish the socio-demographic data of its audience, but the data regarding its popularity on social media is very impressive, particularly in comparison to the F1, which has followed a more classic model.
|Formula 1||Moto GP|
The changes that will come in the wake of the aging population will be subtle but lasting. Promoters and broadcasters will have to find solutions to offset the negative effects. But let’s not forget that every shift in society also spells opportunity for those who know how to act on it.
The Atlantic, Which Sports Have the Whitest/Richest/Oldest Fans?, February 10, 2014
The Economist, Age Invaders, April 26, 2014
Nielsen (http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/reports/2016/the-year-in-sports- media-report-2015.html)
U.S. Census Bureau, Decennial Census, Population Estimates and Projections Statistics Canada, 2011 Census http://techcrunch.com/2015/06/23/new-study-shows-a-rise-in-cord-cutting-8-2- percent-ditched-pay-tv-in-2014-up-1-3-yoy/#.iccpfe3:mdNB