Louis Menand writes in this week's New Yorker about Matthew Futterman’s book Players: The Story of Sports and Money. One passage caught my eye: "[Futterman] thinks that the industry has expanded beyond the scale of its actual audience. 'One of the great illusions of the sports industry is mass fascination,' he says. It’s true that hundreds of millions of people watch special events like the World Cup and the Olympics, but the day-to-day audience for sports is tiny. In the United States, it amounts to about four per cent of households. Fewer than three per cent on average watch their local N.B.A. games; fewer than two per cent watch their home-town N.H.L. teams."
And more: "About twenty per cent of the average cable bill goes to sports channels, which pay the teams or the leagues for the right to show their games. Which means that sports are currently enjoying a very large subsidy from a public that doesn’t watch them ... A statistic related to the shrinking market is the rising age of fans in some sports. According to Futterman, in 2009 the average age of a postseason baseball viewer was forty-nine; in 2014, it was fifty-five. The average age of someone who watched a regular-season baseball game that season was fifty-eight .... Sports’ 'cultural relevance,' as Futterman puts it, may be in decline."