The times are changing, and with it, the tastes of consumers are changing too. Sports used to be one of the things communities would rally around, be it at the professional or university level. Nowadays, sports have to compete with a lot more than just the news. There are so many different businesses that are all competing for the consumer’s attention. As a result, many major sports seem to be in a position where they are not sure what the future holds. Let’s take a look at some professional sports and determine if they are growing, or on a decline.
Mixed Martial Arts
Mixed Martial Arts at one time was called the “fastest growing sport in the world.” It was undeniable. After a long grind, MMA exploded in popularity in the mid 2010s. This sport proposed something new and exciting, something that had never been done before. It’s captivating, and helped bring back the PPV format that was otherwise rapidly fading. Currently, the sport is healthier than ever, even if organizations like the UFC are having trouble continuously coming up with bigger events.
The growth of MMA and organizations like the UFC can be attributed to much more than the novelty of the sport. Major stars in the last 5-6 years have brought enormous amounts of attention to this growing industry. Of course, one of the most famous figures in MMA today is Conor McGregor, a fighter that has broken numerous records in his time and blazed his own trail. As a fan favorite, McGregor’s events send the media into a frenzy. Analysts in the boxing and MMA picks normally have huge writeups in the lead up to his events. While some may suggest that MMA has hit a peak, what it really needs is some time to mature overall and farm some new high-level talent.
Baseball is the sport that often starts this discussion, and for good reason. This sport is considered to be America’s pastime, and was once of huge importance for cultural and economic reasons. Unfortunately, when you look at the different metrics, it’s irrefutable that the business of baseball has been shrinking for decades.
The proof is in the numbers. No World Series since 2010 has broken 20 million viewers per game. That’s a far cry from the 1980s, where the average viewership was around 36 million. Not only that, but average attendance for regular-season games has reportedly dropped by 2-4% annually over the last decade. While there are many reasons that can be attributed to this, one thing that is worth focusing on is that baseball simply has not kept up with the times. MLB has been stuck in its infamous etiquette rut for some time.
Interestingly enough, ice hockey is still chugging along against all odds. While some analysts would say it’s slowly dying, others are saying that it is poised to have its biggest decade ever in the 2020s. The answer lies in the middle, as the sport is consistent with slight continuous growth.
When we look at viewership for the Stanley Cup, the average has remained around 5 million for the last two decades. Attendance wise, most of the biggest teams report that their home attendance has been steady as well. Recently, the NHL has even expanded, creating new businesses and opportunities in the process — something that anyone starting a new business can take inspiration from. In 2017, the Vegas Golden Knights were added to the league, and 2021 will welcome the Seattle Kraken. If the sport was truly dying there wouldn’t be this influx of new investor capital.
While sumo wrestling may not be a sport western audiences are familiar with, it is a perfect example of a sport on the decline due to both a younger generation that doesn’t support it, and a governing committee that refuses to change. Much like hockey in Canada, sumo wrestling is the pride of Japan. Here, the sport has been practiced for at least 1,500 years.
For the six major sumo tournaments that are held throughout the year, in-person attendance is normally very consistent. The average arena holds around 15,000 people, and it is usually sold out for each of the 15 days in a tournament. However, the televised viewership has been steadily declining over the years and the average sumo fan is reportedly around 38 years old, meaning it is failing with the younger demographic.
Another major factor behind the decline revolves around the governing body of the sport. The sumo commission is notoriously hesitant to allow non-Japanese wrestlers to join the professional league. This makes the sport very much contained within the country, and the appeal is often lost on foreigners.