Many studies have considered the impact of behind closed-door sporting events. Issues such as home advantage, odds pricing, attendance demand and performance have all been assessed. Last week, we published a paper in the Sports Economics Review that asks if the move to play elite football (soccer) matches without spectators during the COVID-19 pandemic impacted online viewership?
The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in Premier League matches being played behind closed doors. In the 2019-2020 season, the competition was suspended for several months and when it resumed in June 2020, matches were played without fans in attendance. This continued for the 2020-2021 season, save a limited number of matches where restricted capacities were allowed.
We use a new dataset from YouTube (Sky Sports Channel) to consider this and look at viewership ‘after the fact’ by measuring how many views highlights videos attract. As expected, the results indicate increased viewership for matches played without crowds. Fans couldn’t attend matches live and many had a lot more time on our hands. This boost to online viewership is robust to excluding those partially attended matches during the COVID period too.
As we consider ex-post demand, we can also look at motivators to watch when results are known. More on this curiosity to click next.
The full paper can be accessed here.