Why sports federations should capitalise on free-to-air channels

A recently published PwC Sports Survey found that 50% of sports viewing time (all adults) is via linear TV, 32% is via OTT and 18% is via social media [1]. In the linear TV space, pay TV sports channels have, in Western Europe alone – by value – grown by 20% [2] in the last decade. While putting sports content behind paywalls means a large cash injection for these sports, are sports federations and sponsors missing out on other success factors by not capitalising on the mass reach of free-to-air channels?

Free-to-air channels reach over 800 million Europeans, whilst this shows there could be massive disparity for sports federations between the number of people who want to watch their sport and those with the ability to, causing a lack of participation and interest in that sport in the future. Meanwhile, for sponsors, the value of a sport’s sponsorship rights is linked to reach, a minute of airtime exposure across free-to-air European TV is worth the equivalent commercial value of €220,000 for sponsors, but it drops an average of 68% when moved to a premium pay TV channel [2].

While every sport is at a different point in the development cycle of television rights, even the more established sports can benefit from the power of free-to-air channels, a notable example was the recent women’s tennis US Open Final. The final was shown on one of the UK’s free-to-air channels in a very last-minute deal. Channel 4’s decision to obtain the rights to show the final proved to be an enormous success, with a peak viewing audience of 9.2 million Britons tuning in to watch [3], with 48% being between the ages of 18-34 [4]. This huge audience shows the real value and incredible reach of free-to-air channels, highlighting that, for younger audiences in particular, who are becoming harder to reach, especially with the rise of social media, accessibility is key.

Therefore, the question is, should sports federations be supplementing their pay TV rights deals by distributing additional video content across free channels? And the answer is yes! As we have previously mentioned pay TV brings in vast amounts of revenue and a dedicated engaged audience, especially on sport-specific channels and platforms. However, how do you reach those fresh new audiences, build a fan base and encourage recall if you are restricting your reach. This is especially key for newer sports where awareness and ultimately building a loyal following is the main goal.

Story10 gives sports federations the means to expand their reach. Our distribution network includes the newsrooms of free-to-air channels around the world, as well as digital and social publishers. From the promotion of new events to highlighting new CSR initiatives, newsworthy interviews, and sponsor announcements, Story10 provides the vehicle to increase the value of sponsorship deals, demonstrating a clear ROI and ultimately increasing the accessibility of your content.

Find out how we can help you through our network of owned and earned media channels.



[1] Sports industry: ready for recovery? 

[2] Sport on European TV: Maximising Commercial Value Report EBU

[3] Emma Raducanu’s US Open win serves up audience of 9.2m for C4

[4] Channel 4 and Amazon Prime Video report massive viewing figures for Emma Raducanu’s US Open final win