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Less television, more internet

This is an excerpt from Social Issues in Sport-3rd Edition by Ron Woods.

On a daily basis, viewers in the United States watched about 12 minutes less television in 2014 than they did a year earlier. Overall, viewers spend about 14.5 hours per month watching video on their phones and tablets - or about a tenth of a tenth of the time they spend watching TV (Luckerson 2014). Here are some additional changes in U.S. TV viewing according to two articles in Business Insider (Blodget 2012; Edwards 2013):

  • Fewer households have a physical television set.
  • Fewer people are watching TV.
  • Broadcast ratings have been declining even for some major TV events like the World Series.
  • Fewer viewers watch shows when they are broadcast (except live sport).
  • Viewers increasingly do not watch shows with ads, even on a DVR.
  • Viewers watch a lot of TV and movie content - but mostly on demand via Netflix, iTunes, or HBO.
  • People tend to get their news from the Internet (except when a major crisis occurs).
  • People watch on various screens for convenience (for example, TV, laptop, smartphone, or tablet).

Another change came about in 2014 when CBS, following the lead of HBO, announced the interactive streaming CBSN - the first live-anchored news network across all leading digital platforms. The next network to offer a stand-alone online TV service may well be Starz. This development means that viewers are no longer locked into a cable or satellite subscription service that offers hundreds of channels in which they have no interest; instead, they can choose channels they will actually watch (Cheredar 2014).


Just as television changed how families in the 1950s interacted with sport, the Internet gives twenty-first-century fans another way to experience sport. It provides sport fans with virtual access to sport on demand and in real time and allows them to create personal, specific methods of interaction. For example, people can visit the website of a favorite team, check scores, listen to games in progress, order tickets, browse for stories, read sport blogs, and enter chat rooms to discuss event results.


In fact, we can now go online to track the progress of sport events anywhere in the world and access perspectives from sport newsrooms around the world. The administration of U.S. president Barack Obama has poured billions of dollars into expanding the reach of the Internet, and today nearly 98 percent of U.S. homes have access to some form of high-speed broadband service. Even so, roughly 20 percent of the U.S. population still does not use the Internet - chiefly elderly people and those in low income brackets (Wyatt 2013).


Another milestone was reached in 2013, when for the first time a majority (56 percent) of the U.S. populace owned a smartphone of some kind. In the United States, 92 percent of adults own some type of cell phone, but one third of them (35 percent) have some other type that is not a smartphone. Demographic research reveals that smartphone ownership is slightly higher among men than women (59 percent to 53 percent) and slightly higher among black and Hispanic people (64 percent and 60 percent, respectively) than among white people (53 percent). In terms of age groups, the 18-to-34 category has the highest smartphone ownership rate at 80 percent, and the rate drops steadily from there on, to just 18 percent of the 65-plus age group.


Smartphone ownership is also affected by education level. Specifically, people with the highest levels of education own these devices at nearly double the rate of people with less than a high school diploma. Similarly, higher-income Americans are more likely to own a smartphone, and nearly 60 percent of those who live in an urban or suburban area own such a device, as compared with just 40 percent of rural folks (A. Smith 2013).


Some people use the Internet to supplement televised sport and print media coverage, but for the majority of people in the United States, the Internet is now the primary source for both general news and sport news. Fans who follow their sport via social media report using the following platforms: Facebook (89 percent), Twitter (33 percent), YouTube (65 percent), and Google+ (18 percent). Other options - including Instagram, Flickr, and blogs - have also opened up possibilities for sport news and discussion (Laird 2012).


Beyond simply reporting the news, social networking sites link sport fans with each other and with professional athletes to enable the sharing of ideas and images at lightning speed around the world. In 2012, 26 percent of sport fans reported using social media to follow leagues, teams, and players and to access late-breaking sport results. That was an increase from just 15 percent the year before, and the trend is clearly heading upward at a rapid pace (Laird 2012).

Learn more about Social Issues in Sport, Third Edition.