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Study: Premier League could generate US$432m from digital inventory in 2021

Online assets of world's top sports leagues worth more than US$1.3bn, says Horizm.

12 May 2021 Sam Carp
  • Premier League’s digital inventory worth nearly as much as La Liga (US$256.8m) and NBA (US$172.3m) combined
  • Manchester United have most valuable online inventory worth estimated US$128.6m
  • NHL most efficient league at generating value from its digital assets on a per capita basis

The world’s leading sports leagues could stand to generate more than a combined US$1.3 billion in 2021 from their online inventory across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, according to a new study by digital asset valuation firm Horizm.

The study, titled The Digital Value of Fans, found that English soccer’s Premier League has the most valuable digital inventory, which by the end of this year will be worth a projected €356 million (US$432 million). That figure is almost as much as La Liga (US$256.8 million) and the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) US$172.3 million combined, which ranked second and third, respectively.

Rounding out the top five leagues for predicted annual total inventory were the National Football League (NFL), whose online assets will be worth an estimated US$132.3 million this year, and Italian soccer’s top-flight Serie A (US$121.3 million).

The report found that the world’s leading 20 sports teams, which the study refers to as ‘global brands’, account for two thirds of the total amount, with their digital inventory worth US$889.4 million.

European soccer clubs dominated the top 20, with Manchester United taking top spot with digital inventory projected to be worth US$128.6 million this year. Barcelona’s digital assets are valued at an estimated US$122.6 million, while the La Liga side’s rivals Real Madrid stand to generate US$110.4 million from their online inventory.

Horizm, which said TikTok will be considered for future reports, calculated the predictions in the study using publicly available audience data across the three primary social media platforms. The forecasts were also based only on data from the first quarter of 2021, with seasonal considerations also applied.

“This is arguably the single biggest revenue opportunity in sports right now,” said Horizm chief executive Pedro Mestriner. “If you can demonstrate value in your digital inventory, you have the opportunity for diversification, to create different and more targeted properties and in essence to make your sport timeless.

“We are no longer reliant on a single audience tuning into a single platform and this has become even more pertinent for rights holders in today’s climate with covid-19 disruption. Money no longer needs to be concentrated on TV for example, but can be distributed much more widely, sport can be packaged in different ways and there are new revenue opportunities being created.”

In addition to predicted annual total inventory, the study also calculated the value per fan (VPF), which Horizm described as a ‘new industry metric’ that measures the ability of a league or team to generate value from its digital assets on a per capita basis.

On a league level, the analysis discovered that the National Hockey League (NHL) was the most efficient at generating value from its social audience during Q1, with a VPF of US$0.20. That was followed by the Premier League, which had a VPF of US$0.18, while the NBA and Serie A posted a VPF of US$0.13.

Manchester United had the highest VPF of the global brands with US$0.23, which bettered the US$0.21 achieved by Inter Milan, the Golden State Warriors and Liverpool.

However, Horizm found that ‘elite teams’, which the company classified as those with a social audience between two million and 20 million, are able to generate a significantly higher VPF than the global brands.

The study found that 13 of the top 20 so-called elite teams had a better VPF than Manchester United, with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers leading the way with a VPF of US$0.61. North American franchises accounted for 15 of the top 20 elite teams by VPF.

In terms of platforms, the study says that Instagram is the most valuable of the three primary social media channels for leagues and teams, accounting for 49 per cent of the total value generated. Facebook, meanwhile, accounts for 36 per cent, with Twitter responsible for 15 per cent.

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