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    5. How Generation Z could lead TV football to an existential ..

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    How Generation Z could lead TV football to an existential crisis

    19 million people saw England lose to France at the 2022 World Cup, but TV audiences are dwindling. Photo: Eddie Mulholland/World Cup News Poole (WCNP)

    The 1966 World Cup final was a watershed moment not only for English football, but also for television broadcasting.

    An estimated 32.3 million people watched England's victory over West Germany – a landmark victory that remains the most-watched television broadcast in British history and created an inextricable link between football and the small screen.

    However, almost six decades later, the media landscape has changed beyond recognition. While the upcoming Euro is expected to attract large audiences for both ITV and the BBC, the era of so-called “cooling the water” TV moments has all but ended.

    Instead, the tournament promises to be a key test for both broadcasters and for sports in general against the backdrop of growing competition for viewers' attention.

    As young audiences shun live TV in favor of TikTok and gaming, these are England's football exploits. enough to get Gen Z to tune in?

    “This is one of the first big social media experiments with live tournaments,” says media analyst Ian Whittaker. “It will be a test of where we stand in terms of consumer preferences.”

    For broadcasters, the euro couldn't have come at a better time. The industry is still grappling with a huge advertising slump that executives have called the deepest since the financial crisis.

    ITV, whose advertising revenue fell 8% last year, has begun cutting jobs and introduced wider cost-cutting measures. austerity measures aiming to save £50 million a year.

    The broadcaster forecast advertising revenue growth of 12% in the second quarter – albeit from a low base – largely thanks to the euro.

    While sports programming typically contains fewer advertisements, it offers the opportunity to simultaneously reach a mass audience – an increasingly rare occurrence in the modern streaming age.

    More than 19 million people watched England's quarter-final defeat to France. at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. By comparison, there were just 4.8 million during the general election debate between Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer last week.

    “The Euros, the World Cup, bring in huge audiences… they're just events that the country watches together,” says Jill Hynd of Enders Analysis.

    “It won't be the same audience as 10 years ago , but it will still be in the tens of millions depending on who plays and how far England goes.”

    However, in absolute terms, audience numbers are declining, especially among younger viewers.

    Sports viewing among people under 35 has fallen by almost a quarter since 2015, according to Enders. A recent Ofcom report found that people aged 16 to 24 now spend more time on YouTube and TikTok than watching traditional television.

    Gaming has also grown in popularity, with 56% of UK adults and 91% of children aged 3 to 15 playing on a device both online and offline last year.

    < p>As a result, sport is competing in an increasingly fragmented media landscape. a landscape that is moving further and further away from live television.

    This is perhaps most noticeable in the decline in viewing figures for highlights, as the proliferation of video clips on social media means fans can access highlights almost instantly .

    There's also a growing threat from streaming services, which are increasingly making inroads into sports as subscriber growth slows. Amazon Prime has previously tried its hand at Premier League rights, and Netflix last month struck a deal to show NFL games on Christmas Day.

    So far, sports has not moved to streaming at the same pace as other content genres, while rights to many major tournaments, including the European Championships, are protected by the UK's Listed Events regime.

    But broadcasters – and the sports world as a whole – can't ignore changes in viewing habits.

    Raised on a diet of short videos and notoriously short attention spans, the average Gen Z viewer is making the prospect of a 90-minute football game less appealing . Ofcom research has found that young people are prone to 'second viewing' – scrolling through their phone while watching something else.

    Meanwhile, the rise in popularity of gaming has also changed the way viewers view the sport. Games such as FIFA and the Fantasy Premier League have increased involvement in team selection, but have given young people more attachment to individual star players than to national teams.

    As a result, football and television executives are faced with existential questions questions about how to keep audiences engaged beyond simply broadcasting 90 minutes of action.

    For their part, ITV and the BBC are trying to attract viewers to their streaming services with exclusive content such as documentaries and reruns of classic matches , and are also increasing their activity on social networks.

    The euro may provide a short-term boost to live viewing figures, but experts warn that young audiences will never return to television in the numbers they once did.

    “Gen Z values ​​social content and sports storytelling as much as the live match itself,” says Whittaker. “The Euro will be a very serious test.”

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