A New Age of Sports Media

Find out how Gen Z is revolutionizing the consumption of sports media.


Photo: DealNews

For as long as I can remember, my father has always had the sports package from Verizon, which grants us unlimited access to a multitude of sports channels, from ESPN to smaller local stations. Since cable has been around, live, televised sports have been the mainstay of sports consumption. However, Gen Z is changing the game. Our generation isn’t consuming sports in a traditional manner like our parents. Streaming has become the new hub or sports consumption for college students.


Think about it. Where do your parents, uncles, aunts, and grandparents watch the game? Almost always on a TV. In contrast, Gen Z utilizes smartphones, laptops, and tablets to stream games – and we can watch them from anywhere. Our generation is very social, constantly commenting on each other’s Instagram posts or sharing memes over DMs. Likewise, when watching sports, many college students prefer to chat with others live while watching the game. Companies that fail to notice and evolve with these new trends are struggling, failing to cater to cater to a more diverse audience, and they could face losing business to more proactive companies.


Let’s take a look at ESPN, still the worldwide leader in sports. ESPN has become dull and boring to the new generations because their network shows continue to promote the same crisp, polished ideas and takes week in and week out. There’s no variety. Gen Z lives on variety. For these reasons, ESPN’s ratings have recently plummeted. The lack of down-to-earth personalities causes ESPN to distance themselves from Gen Z viewers, who seek relatability.


ESPN's "First Take" debates sports topics. Photo: Business Insider

On the other hand, smaller media companies, like Barstool Sports, are on the rise because they embrace Gen Z. Barstool Sports is a social media conglomerate focused on sports and pop culture, with additional nods to the sports gambling industry. Using their massive social media presence on Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat, Barstool is able to directly interact with the Gen Z audience and likewise, those who consume sports media through Barstool can interact with their hosts’ personalities, which are very relatable.


Barstool also utilizes “electric chair,” in which their fanatical sports personalities are highlighted. The “electric chair” streams show Barstool employees reacting to the events of a game. Certain streaming events even allow viewers to watch the live reactions of people who’ve gambled a lot of money on a game, which adds stakes when watching – even if you’re not the one who’s bet on the outcome. Barstool’s flexibility and foresight has driven their relevance and one can only wonder if social media companies like this can one day outpace ESPN.


Barstool Yankee fans witness the Yanks fall to the Astros. Photo: Barstool Sports

Although ESPN risks losing air time to streaming companies such as Amazon Video and Apple TV, they seem to be attempting to enact changes. For instance, inviting Eli and Peyton Manning on the channel to provide commentary for Monday Night Football allows viewers to watch the two Hall of Fame brothers remark about various plays and provide insight from a player’s perspective.


Peyton Manning jokingly puts a helmet on his famously large head. Photo: ESPN

We, Generation Z, are the generation of the future. The technology that we possess is rapidly changing the sports industry and it’s fascinating to witness the evolution of sports consumption as college students continue to revolutionize the sports world. We can’t predict how we’ll be watching football games thirty years from now, but my guess is that it won’t be on cable.