Gen Z House Views Opinion

The House View: Gen Z loves violent sport

April 13, 2023

One of the benefits of our role is that we get to sit at the table and engage with Rights Holders and experts and listen to what is happening. The following article comes from conversations between apprx 50 such Rights Holders, Brands and Broadcasters…

So, before we tackle the headline we should ask. 

Do Gen Z want to engage with sport? 

As ever this is nuanced but the positives seem to be that:

  • 53% are sports fans and on average actively watch x4 separate sports leagues
  • 87% are interested in Sport video content
  • 30% of all their video subscriptions are for Sport

The negatives are that they want to consume it very differently and it appears there is a disconnect between marketeers and their target audience. For more insights from the report click here to email Max Signorelli at Omdia.

How are they watching?

No great shock here as obviously short form social video is king/queen and the consumption skews significantly to the smartphone, so I doubt there is much to learn for anyone here.

Will they pay?

Aside from some of the nonsense often written, Gen Z fans are willing to pay for content. But they also pirate content more than other groups and this probably has a lot to do with the fragmentation of paid sports content and the ease of finding illegal content compared with sport that’s behind paywalls. We don’t know how this will change over time, but marketeers will have to be very agile to retain this audience.

The disconnect.

Speaking to multiple execs it became clear that Rights Owners themselves recognise:

  • they lack agility and the ability to be on-trend
  • they don’t talk the right language 
  • they often lack the appetite to be brave and take risks
  • too many think it’s about being transactional and finding ways to quickly cash in on Gen Z

Essentially there is a clear disconnect between decision-makers and the Gen Z market they are trying to reach. Why? Quite simple – it’s because they don’t really understand how Gen Z thinks and behaves. 

2 very simple areas were highlighted.

  1. Organisations need to hire more Gen Z people to blend with as professionals that truly know the space 
  2. They aren’t properly looking at what the data is telling them as many admit that they defer to young family members for their Gen Z insight.

The pitfalls

  • Advertising is growing fast in the streaming market but reaching Gen Z is tricky because use of ad blockers is so prevalent.
  • There is a tendency for traditional sports to overlook the long term value of Gen Z. This goes back to Gen Z feeling very targeted which turns them off and the feeling that sports are trying to cash in on them as the next big golden goose fan group. They are absolutely the next fan group but a more considered, long term approach around monetisation and allowing Gen Z to become fans first before looking to monetise is the better approach. 
  • Unfortunately, sport has a poor track record of looking for the immediate cheque book rather than allowing Commercial Directors, CMOs and CTOs to take 5-year views. Just look at how the web3 space was approached.

What are they watching?

If you strip out the Premier League and Champions League giants, then 7 of the next 9 most watched sports by Gen Z have violence or combat

  • Boxing: UFC: WWE: NFL: Call of Duty: League of Legends: Fortnite
  • Which takes us back to the article headline – Violence – whether physical or digital. It’s an interesting insight into the type of sport that Gen Z is attracted to and clearly moving away from traditional sport like  football, cricket, tennis, golf. Are you listening marketeers? Only NFL would be considered traditional but it has physicality at its core
  • There are many thoughts why combat, and violence plays such a major factor and it is likely that entertainment (specifically movies and TV series) are far more violent these days therefore young kids find it culturally standard – Squid Games anyone? 
  • A report from the American Academy of Pediatrics found that violence in films has more than doubled since 1950 and gun violence in PG-13 films trebled since 1985 
  • A study of the 95 most popular US video games showed 83% featured violent themes.

The solution


  • The single phrase that constantly gets mentioned is around “Building Stories”
  • There is no silver bullet when it comes to engaging Gen Z audiences in sports but to capture their attention, it’s clear that sports that have grown via digital have far greater reach – hence influencers playing such a role in boxing, MMA and of course esports. They tell stories of the athletes. And when that storytelling combines with violence/combat then you have the perfect combination
  • For further evidence of great efforts around stories just look at the recent Wrexham Twitter and viewer numbers – all about a story and the characters behind a club. It’s more about them than the fact there is another fixture on the horizon.

By Sandy Case, CEO of iSportConnect

Gen Z House Views Opinion