With the beginning of a new season of American football—the most expected sporting moment in the United States – ExpressVPN looked at how online viewership and U.S. streaming sports trends have changed in the last few years and the possible factors responsible for these changes. The preferred tool of choice is Google Trends, which can show how popular a Google search term is, with data dating back to 2004.
In the United States, interest in streaming football dominates all other sports. Still, basketball has caught up significantly over the past five years, and the popularity of soccer has increased enough to outperform baseball.
Soccer has always been less prevalent in the USA than in Europe or South America. Still, the latest success of women’s soccer in the United States, the expansion of Major League Soccer, and the growth in the number of foreign MLS players are all factors that helped the sport grow. And it remains unclear whether this year’s World Cup will have significant lasting effects.
Despite the dominance of football and soccer, our U.S. state heat map shows how a state deviates from the norm, preferring hockey. And it’s, of course, Minnesota. The study also included football and baseball in that comparison, but neither appeared to be the most popular in any state.
And, of course, interest in streaming various sports fluctuates throughout the year, often at the start or end of a season. However, this is not always the case. “Stream tennis” was most popular on May 31, 2022, for the quarterfinals of the French Open between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. And likewise, the UFC returned to the featured athletes; in the last 12 months, the most famous fight for streaming is Jorge Masvidal vs. Colby Covington.
Best sports for online streaming
It is no surprise that interest in continuous sports dropped to its lowest level in 2020 when COVID-19 brought down many tournaments. But even excluding this abnormal time, the Google search term “stream sports” has declined every year since 2017. A probable explanation is the different agreements the sports leagues have signed with the main streaming platforms, leading to increased segmentation and, therefore, a reduction in the use of this generic search term.
Trends in emerging sports
Even though the UFC is a niche market, it is trendy for streaming, competing even with the best traditional sports. In the United States, only one fighter who attracted the most attention was Conor McGregor. The four battles that led to the highest popularity for “streaming UFC” since 2017 introduced him.
Although the UFC is widely observed worldwide, the most popular combatants vary by country. For example, Russian fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov inspires the UK’s most outstanding and significant research.
Formula 1 is another sport that has won traction around the world. Meanwhile, one of the factors behind this popularity in recent years is TV, in particular Netflix’s program, Drive to Survive. Finally, the study compared the interest in Formula One and the interest in Drive to Survive, and the correlation between the two was remarkable. In the future, it would be interesting to look at the long-term impacts of other sports programs like Ted Lasso.