Live Sports Viewership Statistics 2023: How Americans Watch Their Favorite Sports

Alex Kerai
Jan 09, 2024
Icon Time To Read6 min read

Americans love their sports. It’s true! Whether in the ballpark or sitting at home on the couch, watching live sports is still America’s favorite pastime. In fact, our research shows nearly 70% of Americans watch live sports, with many tuning in on a weekly basis for the latest football, basketball, and baseball games.

How important is live sports to Americans? Well, if the recent standoff between Charter Spectrum and Disney shows us anything, it’s not to mess with Monday Night Football. For over a week, over 15 million Americans couldn’t watch the U.S. Open, college football, or even NFL games on the usual channels—many had to subscribe to extra streaming services just to watch the games they paid for. The blackout ended, and service was restored, just in time for the first Monday Night Football game of the season.

But what about other sports? What about local games? And where do Americans tune in the most to watch? We asked and nearly 700 Americans answered . Viewing habits are changing and streaming is taking over our lives, but for now, cable might still be the most straightforward way to watch live sports.

circular bar graph showing how many surveyors watch live sports

Americans love watching the NFL

Since nearly 70% of Americans watch live sports, it’s not too surprising that cable packages are ingrained with live sports channels like ESPN and regional sports networks.

  • Over one-third (36%) of Americans still watch sports using a cable or satellite subscription with Xfinity, Spectrum, DIRECTV, and Dish.
    • Dish, Xfinity, and DIRECTV subscriptions include NFL RedZone while Spectrum offers it as an add-on.
  • Only 29% stream all of their live sports coverage through services like Amazon Prime Video, ESPN+, Peacock, and Paramount+.
  • Meanwhile, live TV streaming services are gaining popularity with 22% of Americans watching via Sling, fuboTV, Hulu + Live TV, YouTube TV, Xfinity Stream, and DIRECTV stream.
  • A surprising 8% of Americans still use an over the air antenna for live sports viewing.
  • Finally, 5% are staying in the community and watching their live sports at a bar, restaurant, or gym—basically, anywhere outside of the home.
Live TV streaming services for NFL games
Provider
Monthly price
Available channels
Learn more
Fubo TV
$79.99–$99.99183–259
$72.99100
$69.99-$89.9985
$69.99-$159.99*90-185
Data as of 04/05/2023. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* Plus taxes. Req's purchase of Device. New customers only.

A majority of Americans (87%) are watching sports through some cable or streaming package, while over half (51%) have made the switch to streaming-only sports viewing.

  • As more streamers pick up exclusive games, this could become more popular for viewers to follow their favorite teams.
  • Amazon Prime Video, ESPN+, and Peacock will stream exclusive NFL games this season.
graphic showing most popular sports leagues to watch are NFL, NBA, and MLB

Even though it’s America’s pastime, Major League Baseball (MLB) is not the most popular sport to watch live, which may be because games used to take hours to complete. Nowadays, 65% of sports fans watch live NFL games.

  • Basketball and the NBA rank second with 51% of the vote while baseball rounds out the top three with 42%.
  • This Reviews.org writer prefers watching soccer, which didn’t even rank in the top 10!

After those three major leagues, college sports take the next two spots for football and basketball. (Men’s and women’s basketball were counted as the same NCAA sport.)

NASCAR auto racing and Formula 1 place sixth and eighth, respectively, with 24% and 17% of viewers. It’s a strong showing for Formula 1, which has seen its popularity grow with the Netflix series Drive to Survive.

  • Hockey comes in seventh with 20% of the vote.
  • Rounding out the top ten are combat sports: the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and Bellator Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). The UFC earned 17% of the vote, while MMA received only 13%.

The most popular U.S. sports leagues to watch

#
Answer
Answer %
1Football, NFL (National Football League)65%
2Basketball, NBA (National Basketball Association)51%
3Baseball, MLB (Major League Baseball)42%
4Football, NCAA College Football30%
5Basketball, NCAA College Basketball (Men's and Women's)25%
6Auto racing, NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing)24%
7Hockey, NHL (National Hockey League)20%
8Auto racing, F1 (Formula 1)17%
9Combat Sports, UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship)17%
10Combat Sports, Bellator MMA (Bellator Mixed Martial Arts)13%
11Basketball, WNBA (Women's National Basketball Association)12%
12Soccer, MLS (Major League Soccer)12%
13Basketball, NBA G League (NBA Development League)12%
14Auto racing, IndyCar (IndyCar Series)11%
15Combat Sports, WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment)11%
16Golf, PGA (Professional Golfers' Association)10%
17Basketball, WNBA (Women's National Basketball Association)9%
18Combat Sports, AEW (All Elite Wrestling)9%
19Combat Sports, WBA (World Boxing Association)8%
20Auto racing, NCAA College Baseball8%

How do Americans stream sports?

While the relative majority of Americans prefer to watch sports using a cable or satellite subscription, a combination of streaming and live TV streaming takes the cake with 51%. What does that mean? Americans are moving to stream their sports.

  • Take it from me—I watch all of my sports on replay. In fact, I’m watching a Women’s World Cup match right now on Fox Sports and will probably go to the Premier League on Peacock afterward.
bar graph showing most popular on-demand streaming services for sports

But where do most Americans stream their sports? We asked them which apps they go to the most, and while there were some repeat favorites, it’s no surprise that Amazon Prime Video comes up as the top choice with over 50% of the vote.

  • Why? Amazon Prime Video has the rights to around 20 MLB games each season but they are also the exclusive home of Thursday Night Football from the NFL.
  • This is the NFL's second year on the platform after signing an exclusive deal for Thursday Night Football through 2033.

ESPN+ comes up second (with 45%) due to its wide range of content including baseball, basketball, cricket, hockey, golf, MMA, rugby, soccer, volleyball, and more.

Peacock may be well known for its scripted and unscripted programming from NBC, but 33% of Americans use it for sports content as well—maybe because it airs Sunday Night Football, NBC playoff games, and Sunday afternoon MLB games.

  • I use Peacock the most because it streams every Premier League game. But other folks may be tuning in for auto racing, bike racing in the Tour de France, golf, NCAA Big Ten conference basketball and football games, the Olympics, and the WWE.

A little over a quarter of Americans (26%) watch Paramount+ for their on-demand streaming sports coverage.

  • The streamer from CBS and Paramount lucked out with football from CBS (including Inside the NFL), numerous soccer leagues (including the NWSL and the UEFA Champions League), and boxing on Paramount+ with SHOWTIME®.

While Max is well-known as the streaming home of HBO, it does include sports like the U.S. men’s and women’s national soccer teams and some NHL games. Only 19% of Americans use it for on-demand sports.

  • However, big changes could be coming as the streamer plans to add basketball, hockey, and baseball on the streamer later this year, too.

After signing a huge deal for Major League Soccer rights (and offering MLS Pass) plus streaming baseball games, Apple TV+ is making a great showing for a small streamer with 16% of the vote.

  • Sure, a lot of sports viewership does require an additional subscription on Apple TV+, but it does have cool features like multiview and the potential to get into NCAA streaming rights.

And 7% of U.S. sports fans use other streaming services. Which ones? We can only guess they’re somewhere on our list.

Is there a generational difference in sports viewership?

Honestly, no, there isn’t a generational difference in viewership. It seems like Americans of all ages love to watch sports. In fact, over 65% of people in each generation are live sports viewers.

graph showing that millennial generation views more sports than other generations

But how each generation watches their live sports differs greatly.

Comparing the generations, 52% of Millennials use on-demand streaming services to watch live sports, compared to only 12% of Boomers.

  • Younger generations, including Gen Z and Millennials, are more likely to use streaming or live TV streaming services to watch sports.

On the other hand, 60% of Boomers use satellite or TV to watch live sports, compared to only 35% of Millennials.

  • Gen X and Boomers tend to stick it out with cable and satellite connections.

Millennials are more likely to enjoy a communal sports watching experience at a bar, gym, or restaurant—but they’re also going to watch online more than any other generation.

  • In a weird twist, Millennials also use antennas the most out of any generation.
live sports viewership methods by generation

When it comes to streaming sports, there is a generational divide between services. But, every generation can agree that ESPN+ is the best streaming service for live sports.

  • 36% of Gen Z use ESPN+, the most out of any generation or streaming service.
  • Amazon Prime Video comes in second with 34% of Millennials.

The least used streaming services? Less than 1% of Boomers use Apple TV+ for live sports while only 5% of Gen X and Boomers use Max.

line graph showing top streaming services for live sports by generation

Conclusion

With nearly 70% of Americans watching live sports, it’s no surprise that streaming and cable sports channels are big business! In fact, ESPN+ is the most used streaming service for sports across generations while a third of Americans have held on to cable and satellite service for the plethora of sports options. And with 65% of sports fans watching live NFL games, it’s important to find the right coverage.

If you’re one of the many sports fans out there looking to watch your favorite team, let us help you out when searching for the right streamer or cable package with these articles:

Methodology

Reviews.org surveyed 1,000 Americans 18 years and older with a margin of error of +/- 4% and a confidence level of 95%. The survey results were weighted to reflect characteristics of the United States population using available data from the U.S. census.

Alex Kerai
Written by
Alex began writing for student newspapers and has managed to turn that into a career. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he wrote about small businesses for Biz2Credit and Business.org. Before that, he spent time in communications for higher education institutions, created marketing materials for nonprofits, and worked for entertainment companies in Los Angeles. Today, he reports on emerging consumer trends and his work can be seen on The Penny Hoarder, Business.org, Move.org, WhistleOut.com, CableTV.com, SafeWise.com, HighSpeedInternet.com, and SatelliteInternet.com. When he's not writing, Alex watches too much TV, plays guitar, reads and writes fiction, and goes on nature walks.

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