Empty Stadiums and Streaming: How Covid-19 Is Affecting the Sports Media Industry?

In our last blog post we spoke about how the current global crisis is affecting streaming video and entertainment, but within the media industry the sports market has been particularly hard hit.

Postponed or cancelled events have swept through the industry, impacting the Premier League, the Grand National, the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Hockey League (NHL). The latter two have both suspended their seasons indefinitely. Major League Baseball (MLB), boxing, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) are planning for decreased revenues for event organizers, media broadcasters, and even for advertisers. Some cable television and sports streaming companies depend on these events to be profitable.

In Europe, many soccer clubs have decided to play matches in empty stadiums. If venues are forced to close their doors to spectators for the long haul, they could lose broadcasting allure because without live fans, sporting events don’t hold the same appeal, and could arguably suffer in quality. To make matters worse, the increasing number of coronavirus cases among players ultimately impelled many leagues to  suspend scheduled matches for 30 days. According to the BBC, there will be no activity in the Spanish top flight of football (soccer) for “at least the next two rounds of matches” due to the quarantine of the Real Madrid squad. The Netherlands’ top two leagues and the 2020 Major League Soccer season, which started less than two weeks ago, have also been suspended for the same period.

We were also looking forward to the Tokyo Olympics this summer, but this week  the Olympic committee finally announced that the games will be postponed. The leagues and teams are not alone in depending on the profits made from the events and sponsorship deals; many advertisers and broadcasters also depend on this content, at least in part, and it is not easily replaced in their programming schedule.

It is difficult to say what the long-term impacts of this crisis on the industry will be,  but it is safe to say that in the short term, only the most agile companies will be able to redeploy sales to new channels looking for content alternatives and new profit sources to make up for shortfalls.

In this scenario, e-sports now has an opportunity to build its presence among sports fans who would ordinarily be consuming other content. Some players like Eleven Sports are already taking advantage of the situation and have organized eSports championships on their YouTube channel. They have mobilized participation from La Liga players like Marco Asensio, Sergi Roberto, Marcos Llorente, Reguilón, Lucas Pérez and Januzaj in addition to some well-known TV sports commentators, thus guaranteeing a truly immersive experience for their viewers.


This looks like a good opportunity to increase and diversify their content-offering in order to ensure continued engagement from their current audience and attract new subscribers.