EBU report outlines the value of airing sports content that’s free to watch

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An independent report commissioned by the EBU from Oxford Economics calculates that the economic impact of free-to-air sports broadcasting contributed €4.9 billion to Europe’s GDP and supported over 60,000 jobs in 2022.

The findings include direct contributions from content production and broadcasting and significant indirect and induced impacts due to supply chain spending and employees’ consumer expenditure.

The study also explores wider impacts, such as the way in which public service media coverage attracts sponsorship income for sport.

The Economic Impact of the Sports Activities of Public Service Media report evaluates the impact of 188,000 hours of free-to-air sports programming across radio and television, from 44 EBU Members in 31 countries, including high-profile, high-value events such as the FIFA World Cup Finals and the World Athletics Championships.

It also includes online fan engagement through websites, apps and social media.

Doug Godden, lead economist at Oxford Economics and the report’s author, said: “Our analysis unveils a symbiotic relationship between free-to-air sports broadcasting and economic vitality, illustrating the far-reaching ripple effects of this dynamic industry right across the continent. What’s more, providing sporting action to audiences for free has great value to the public of the countries in which EBU Members operate.”

The economic footprint covers:

Direct impact – Public service media production and broadcasting of sports content contributed approximately €0.9 billion to the GDP and employed over 5,000 workers. Each worker generated an estimated economic value of €166,000, significantly above the regional average.

Indirect impact – EBU members’ spending on goods and services, including cameras, media rights, catering, and editing services, stimulated an additional €2.7 billion in GDP and supported over 38,000 jobs across the region. Notably, spending on sports rights played a key role in driving this impact.

Induced impact – The economic activity generated by the wages paid to EBU member employees and those in their supply chain led to a further €1.4 billion contribution to GDP and supported an additional 16,420 jobs.

As well as providing broader economic advantages such as leveraging additional income streams for sports through sponsorship, advertising revenue and event hosting fees (and often stimulating local tourism from visiting sports fans), free-to-air media exposure can also help grow and expand the fan base of emerging sports, leading to increased gate receipts and merchandising.

The report also reinforces how public service media sports coverage is a catalyst for wider societal benefits such as promoting grassroots sports participation and health and wellbeing.

The corresponding reduction in healthcare costs and productivity losses due to illness, shows the impact extending beyond the playing field, says the EBU.

Glen Killane, executive director, Eurovision Sport, said: “This report underscores how central public service media is to the sports ecosystem in Europe. With a combined potential audience of 1 billion people, our members ensure that sport has the best shop window in the world to inspire and encourage the athletes of the future.”