Infographic: What drives sports streaming in the UK?

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The FIFA World Cup 2022 is approaching, with 32 teams vying for the most prestigious title in football. This time around, the event takes place in Qatar from November 20 to December 18. (Learn how to stream FIFA World Cup.)

In anticipation of one of the world’s most watched sporting events, we wanted to look at how online spectatorship has changed over the last few years and the possible factors—from the pandemic to TV shows—that could have influenced these trends. 

To create this infographic, we used Google Trends to look at the popularity of various sporting-related search terms on Google.

Football fans want to stream Liverpool FC more than any other team—a trend that has held steady for the past five years. However, Manchester United did make a meaningful breakthrough in streaming interest on September 25, 2021, when they suffered a shocking defeat against Aston Villa.

We’re also able to observe how the recent results of the Lionesses, England’s women’s football team, influenced the fluctuating popularity of its star players. While Chloe Kelly had not been a standout in online searches for most of the Euro tournament, her popularity jumped ahead of her teammates’ after scoring the last goal to win the Euro Finals.

Football aside, when we take a look at the interest in five other top sports, golf dominates with its share (42%) of online searches, followed by rugby. Cricket, F1, and tennis hold their own, too, for a slice of the pie in Google lookups.

Unsurprisingly, interest in “stream sports” dropped to a low in 2020 when Covid-19 halted many tournaments. But even excluding this anomalous period, the Google search term “stream sports” declined yearly from 2017. One probable explanation is the various deals that sports leagues have signed with major streaming platforms, leading to increased segmentation and, therefore, a decrease in using this generic search term.

While UFC might seem niche, it is hugely popular for streaming worldwide. In the UK, spikes in interest in matches in the past five years correlate with the appearance of Russian fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov. This is not the case elsewhere, such as in the U.S., where bouts featuring Irish fighter Conor McGregor lead to the most searches. While McGregor is also popular in the UK, his fights tend to be in time zones that are more conducive for viewing in the U.S. than in the UK.

F1 is another sport that has gained traction globally. And one factor driving this popularity in recent years is television—specifically the Netflix show Drive to Survive. We compared interest in watching F1 and interest in Drive to Survive, and the correlation between the two was remarkable.