One of the interesting aspects of sport is the evolution of rules to either make it safer for players or more interesting for new fans. For example, the NHL has become much faster with the emphasis on interference and holding penalties as well as the removal of the two-line pass rule, which has sped up the game incredibly.
Unfortunately for hockey, it appears the sport still doesn’t have a foothold among the younger viewers in the United States, but which sport are the Gen Z’s watching most? We have the answer below.
Gen Z Loves The NFL
In the above table provided by Statista, you can see that the NFL leads the charge as the most popular sport among the Generation Z population at nearly 50 percent. Nipping at the heels of the sport played on the gridiron is the sport played on hardwood known as the NBA. There is quite a steady drop-off after that with the college version of those two sports coming next.
I think the NFL has done a good job branding itself to the younger audience recently with the Nickelodeon Slime Time NFL presentations that have fun graphics for kids such as the slime zone when a player scores and slime covers the end zone. They have brought in younger talents to broadcast the game while also doing a good job explaining the rules.
NHL Has Some Work To Do
I spoke about hockey off the top and while there have been new tactics implemented, the NHL is second from the bottom at only 25 percent popularity, just below NASCAR and above the WNBA. I do believe hockey will see a boost with its new TV deal with ESPN that could help the sport overtake racing but it simply doesn’t have the draw that mainstays the NFL and NBA have.
Could UFC Jump Into The Top Five?
I was most surprised with the UFC’s popularity at 29 percent, just down from America’s favorite pastime, baseball, at 32 percent. Still in its infancy, the UFC could soon jump into the top five thanks to its 2019 ESPN deal and the draw of entertaining fighters such as Conor McGregor and Israel Adesanya.
I can remember a time when the UFC was considered brutal and was still banned in many states. But it is now becoming the most popular combat sport over boxing and with a large youth audience, the sky is the limit for this growing sport.
One factor that will help with a growth in popularity is that the fighters are a lot freer to speak their minds, in comparison to athletes in other sports, and a lot of them are very active on social media and Twitch. That allows fans greater access to their favorite fighters and to see their true personalities and root for them win or lose.
Also, from the dawn of time, people like to see unarmed hand-to-hand combat and the drama leading up to those fisticuffs. I think MLB will need a few more bench brawls and Lou Piniella-like freakouts at home plate if it wants to hold off the cage fighters.