Latin American Sports Fans Embrace Music, eSports Amid COVID-19 Live Sports Shutdown as Pay TV Providers Shift Strategies to Retain Subscribers

By May 5, 2020Our Ideas

COVID-19 has spread rapidly across the globe, reaching nearly every nation and costing tens of thousands of lives so far. While protecting public health is the clear priority in this pandemic, there has already been an unprecedented impact on the global economy with massive job losses and plunging stock market indexes.

 Altman Vilandrie & Company clients have asked us over the last couple of weeks for our views on the near- and long-term impacts of this crisis. This article represents the next installment in a series of articles that dive deeper into different aspects of the crisis and how they will impact our lives, our work, and the Telecommunications, Media and Technology (TMT) industries on which we rely.

 Recent entries include an overview of TMT trends, a look at what sports fans are doing to fill the void left by the professional sports blackout, an in-depth consumer survey on employee remote work trends affecting telecom and tech providers, and an analysis of current and future work from home trends.

May 5, 2020

Latin American sports fans are turning to music, exercise, and eSports to fill the void during the live sports shutdown created by the COVID-19 outbreak, according to a new survey by Altman Vilandrie & Company. The survey of 3000 consumers in six major Latin American nations shows that while most sports fans are still following their favorite teams and leagues/competitions during the shutdown, more than 10% of sports fans have cancelled or are considering cutting the cord from pay TV, creating challenges for pay TV providers as sports competitions remain suspended.

“Latin American sports fans are some of the most loyal and passionate in the world so trying to fill that void has been difficult,” said Altman Vilandrie & Company Director Daniel Torras. “While other pursuits can help fans pass the time, it is critical for pay TV providers and sports programmers to provide engaging content for viewers during the live sports shutdown – or risk losing them as customers over the long term.”

According to the survey, adult sports viewers from six counties – Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru – are listening to music (~40%), exercising (~30%), reading (~30%), and playing video games (~25%) more during the gameplay suspension. By contrast, only ~20% expressed interest in watching non-sports programming, compared to 55% of American sports fans from a similar recent Altman Vilandrie & Company survey.Sport documentaries, classic games are popular, eSports top in Brazil

There are still opportunities for sports content creators and pay TV providers to attract Latin American sports fans, as nearly 80% of sports fans – and 100% of Brazilian fans – express interest in alternative sports programming, including documentaries (top choice for ~20%), classic sports games (20%), and variety shows (~20%). While eSports is not the top choice in five of the countries, it is the most popular option in Brazil at 26%. In responding to a separate survey question, about half of Latin American sports fans say they are more interested in eSports now than before the COVID-19 pandemic – far more than in the United States (15%).“There is a significant opportunity for eSports leagues and providers like Twitch to invest heavily in Latin America right now,” said Torras. “In addition, sports TV providers should look at broadcasting eSports and making more direct connections between eSports and traditional sports, which our research shows can be mutually beneficial.”

Sports fans value Pay TV, but some looking to cut service

While Latin American consumers overall value home internet service over Pay TV, a larger percentage of sports fans place an equal importance on TV and home internet. But it’s not all good news: more than 10% of Latin American sports fans indicate they have cancelled or are considering cancelling their pay TV service since the onset of COVID-19. And in Mexico, this percentage is significantly above the Latin American average at 17%.However, a return to gameplay should help solidify a base of viewers who want to stay connected to their favorite sports teams and leagues: approximately 70% of respondents say are still following their favorite teams and leagues.The challenge, according to Torras, is finding ways to continue engaging sports fans in the meantime – and retaining them as subscribers.

He noted that many Latin American Pay TV and content providers are already employing innovative techniques to keep sports viewers engaged. Sky Mexico, for example, is broadcasting classic matches from Spain’s La Liga and the English Premier League at no charge to its subscribers. Other providers, like Claro in Brazil and DirecTV through Latin America, are providing free access to a wealth of premium tier channels, including sports, to their subscribers. Premium sports channel Win Sports+, which holds the exclusive rights to the professional soccer league in Colombia, has gone as far as to waive monthly subscription fees to all its customers. And Chilean cable provider VTR is giving targeted fee reductions to subscribers who lost their jobs due to COVID-19.“A prolonged live sports shutdown has significant risks for traditional Pay TV providers,” said Torras. “Temporary price reductions, free premium content, and alternative programming, as some have already implemented, could help retain subscribers until gameplay resumes and the stickiness of TV returns. With the importance Latin American consumers place on home internet, virtual MVPDs could accelerate the use of video streaming as an alternative to traditional TV.”

Once gameplay returns, 75% of Latin American sports fans plan to return to watching sports programming on TV, a slightly lower number than in the U.S. (89%). It is less certain whether sports fans will be equally keen on attending live sporting events, especially if gameplay resumes before a COVID-19 vaccine is available. A separate survey conducted by AV&Co. showed than roughly half of sports fans in Mexico and Brazil would be reticent to attend live games in the absence of an effective vaccine. And this percentages climbs to 70% or more among some demographics, such as sports fans aged 55 and over in Mexico.Altman Vilandrie & Company’s survey, which polled 3000 consumers in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru on April 2-4, was led by Daniel Torras and Matt Del Percio.

Daniel Torras, Director - Altman Vilandrie & Co.

Daniel Torras

Matt Del Percio