I have always argued that the actual "quality" of sports that we are watching on TV is maybe a quarter of its success (and value). With Winter Olympics running, do I care if it's a world class performance if some guy flies 145 meters on his skiers, or isn't it more important where people come from (nations), what they stand for (characters, whatever the commentator tells me), how close the competition is (rivalries etc.) - if all of them where coming in at 119m, 118.8m and 117.9m meters under the same circumstances, I wouldn't have noticed that "real world class ski jumpers" would have gone 25 meters more. What I am trying to say here: put some second class footballers in Real Madrid & Barcelona Jerseys and in front of 100k people in a sold out stadium in Spain's capital, you will still have great entertainment, and put Messi and Ronaldo under fake names and with fake beards in a 3rd tier match in Romania, and no one will care, or notice. If one of them does something crazy, you will get a viral video out of it, forgotten tomorrow. No TV station will show interest to license rights of 3rd tier football in Romania. So:
The actual, objective quality of what we see is just a tiny part of sports entertainment. There are some interesting experiments around this, from people trying to invent and establish new sports (which I am big fan of) or people who think of how to disrupt the Olympics (which I am also a fan of, but can't link anywhere). One other interesting example is this: Barstool Sports sells PPV on boxing events. The thing is: the boxers are complete amateurs. Last time, they hit 41000 subscribers at 10 USD. That's serious money.