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ESPN Research & Insights today released its findings from a nationwide survey of 1,004 sports fans ages 18+, fielded from April 17-20, to investigate current perceptions around the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on sports moving forward. Results from the “ESPN Coronavirus Lockdown Fan Study” show widespread support for resuming live sports without spectators, among other findings.
“As the place of record for sports, no one understands fans better than ESPN,” said Cary Meyers, SVP, ESPN Research & Insights. “Sports serve as an escape and provide joy in the current times, as evidenced by record-breaking audiences for ‘The Last Dance’ and NFL Draft. That deep need for sports was expressed by both avid and casual fans, with an eagerness for live sports to return in some way on TV even without fans in attendance.”
Nearly twice as many fans would prefer to watch televised sporting events without crowds than those who believe sports should only restart when fans can experience the game in person (65% vs. 35%, respectively). Furthermore, 76% say that they support the return of sports without fans in the stands if players were kept in hotels and their contact with others was closely monitored.
The fervor for the return of sports is strongest among avid sports fans (88%), who say they can’t wait until live sports are back on television and plan to watch as much as they can. More than half (56%) of all sports fans feel the same passion. Additionally, many see sports as a great way to feel normal again amid the pandemic (67%), specifically avid sports fans (85%).
Without sports, 78% of avid fans and 53% of all fans expressed sorrow having no sports on the horizon. A nearly universal number of avid sports fans (90%) say they miss watching live events on TV, while more than half (56%) of all sports fans say they miss it.
ESPN Research & Insights commissioned the nationwide survey with Global Strategy Group for this initial benchmark wave, with subsequent waves scheduled over the next few months to monitor and track any important shifts in fan sentiment. For the purpose of this analysis, “avid sports fans” are defined as anyone who characterizes themselves as an 8, 9, or 10 on a 0-10 sports fandom scale.