Live Sports: The Remix

Fans are getting their fix through social, streaming and 'historical' content.

Regardless of cancellations and empty stadiums, die-hard sports fans are consuming content in any format they can get it.

In response to current circumstances, publishers have pivoted by finding new ways to attract consumer eyeballs through live streaming and social platforms (versus Linear Television alone). From a content perspective, the lack of live events has led to the rise of ‘historical’ sports viewership. While Linear Networks will still hold powerful mass reach, they will need to be flexible as the future of live sports remains uncertain for the rest of the year. 

Sports go social

Publishers have been remarkably agile in capturing audiences both before and after sporting events. For instance, Capital One’s “The Match: Champions for Charity” captured an average of 5.8 million viewers across Turner platforms, affirming Linear’s dominant reach. However social engagement was remarkably high as well, with Bleacher Report posting 38 million video views and 5 million social engagements leading up to the release. 

The NFL Draft on CBS Sports was also hugely popular, bringing 1 million new users to the platform. Bleacher Report produced 12 hours of live coverage during the NFL Draft, generating 12 million video plays in their app - four times more than last year against their coverage. Opportunities like this are expected to grow throughout the year.

Fans are diving into ‘historical’ content

While true sports fans have always had interest in classic sporting events (hint: ESPN Classics) the pandemic has caused more casual fans to dive into historical content as well. YouTube has seen a 15 percent increase in sports video views YOY, thanks to their deep backlog of footage and interviews across every major sport.

Vox SBNation’s current top performing shows are all based around sports nostalgia. Beef History (sports rivalry nostalgia), Dorktown (MLB nostalgia), Collapse (downfall of sports legends), Untitled (famous athlete nostalgia), and Rewinder (greatest moments in sports) are now top performing programs for the network. 

Across social media, brands like ESPN are going deep into the vault to maintain their brand name and relevance. Brands are leaning on historic games and athletic feats to capture attention, churning out several posts a day on social. 

Upcoming Linear schedules are in flux

Major sports leagues are all beginning to announce their return in modified formats, which could spark major changes to the sports world beyond this season. While networks and owners will always want to maximize revenue with longer seasons and traditional formats, the consumer response has yet to be seen. Here are the latest updates from major league sports.


The NHL has announced that while the remainder of the regular season has been cancelled, there will be an updated Stanley Cup Playoff format that will crown an official Stanley Cup Champion for this season. There are still several variables to consider, but the timing for these live events will likely start in August. 


After several negotiations, the MLB has decided to move forward with a shortened season – just 60 games versus 162. Assuming health concerns for the players can be mitigated, Opening Day should arrive by late July.


The NBA season is tentatively set to resume on July 31st with just 22 teams - and continue through early October.

Networks should remain flexible with advertisers as uncertainties remain. This is an unprecedented change in the industry, and hesitant advertisers will want to ensure their ad dollars are safe while still reaching key audiences during modified seasons.


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