October 7, 2022

If you cannot be in the stands to see a sports event, watching it on a big TV is the next best thing. Making plans to watch the big game is a tradition shared by cultures around the world – in fact, sports events make up the most considerable portion of all popular live broadcasts. 

While sport has been changing and many sports have spread to become global entities, sports betting has helped to drive change. Fans who search for the best betting apps are ever more demanding of the sport that they consume, and this can have a range of effects, with sports that are more naturally suited to betting becoming increasingly popular.

In short, sporting tastes change. While some sports have enduring popularity, there are many others whose fortunes rise and fall. Predicting the future of sports popularity isn’t easy, but here are five sports that we think will be the most popular throughout the 2020s. 

Esports

The esports sector has seen remarkable growth in terms of viewership and income throughout the years. The rise in viewership is largely responsible for the increase in revenue – and not simply because those viewers generate revenue. 

Brands are investing substantially more – both directly and indirectly – as they see the potential of reaching a large and engaged audience in the entertainment market.

This has led to the industry’s rapid financial development, which has only been delayed by Covid’s ban on major public esports events, though things appear to be back to normal in 2022.

And as faster internet and more advanced gaming technology develop over the next few years, the range of esports games and esports opportunities will grow.

Already, games such as Fortnite and Valorant have been challenging the established “big guns” such as Dota 2 and CS:GO, and we can expect esports to continue to grow. 

Women’s soccer

More than 30 million women play football globally, a number that has increased dramatically since the 2019 Women’s World Cup broke viewing records.

Following FIFA’s first worldwide strategy for increasing women’s soccer participation internationally, countries with lengthy histories of men’s football (such as Mexico and Italy) are now investing heavily in the women’s game. 

Meanwhile, broadcast rights are in high demand: the Women’s Super League in the United Kingdom struck an £8m-per-season contract with the BBC and Sky Sports last year, while streaming service DAZN just paid $8m per year for the worldwide rights to air the women’s UEFA Champions League.

And in the US, the Women’s National Team has long led the way, dominating the international world of soccer – in a fashion that the men’s national team could only dream of. It is likely that this interest in women’s soccer will continue to grow both in the US and the rest of the world throughout the 2020s due to the success of such teams. 

NBA 

The National Basketball Association (NBA) earns an average of $8bn per year, making it the world’s third most profitable sports league. Basketball has rapidly become a global sport since the 1990s, with the 1992 United States Olympic team marking a significant milestone in the process.

Since then, the NBA has extended to a number of nations, with international players playing a significant role in this development.

Because China is a primary aim in the NBA’s globalization strategy, the first games played outside of the United States were in Beijing and Shanghai, and they were followed by games in London, Paris, Tokyo and Mexico City.

The former NBA commissioner, David Stern, deserves the most credit for initiating and pushing for this worldwide growth, which has continued under Adam Silver. 

The NBA’s dominance is being challenged by the rising standard of European basketball, as evidenced by Luka Dončić’s amazing performance, which will drive greater innovation throughout the 2020s.

Mixed martial arts

Mixed martial arts is undoubtedly a candidate for the fastest-growing sport in the world right now.  Its biggest fights are responsible for some of the highest pay-per-view figures in history, as millions are drawn to the compelling spectacle offered by the clash of fighting styles. 

The MMA’s Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was valued at $4bn in July 2016, thanks in no small part to the showmanship and tenacity of its headline fighters such as Conor McGregor.

In fact, the McGregor versus Nurmagomedov Khabib fight in October 2018 was the third-best-selling PPV event of all time, with 2.5 million sales, generating more than $17m in revenue. People are not only interested in the big names – there’s evidence that fans are still attracted to the lesser-known stars.

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