NFL Viewership is Key for Linear TV
By: Neel Kulkarni
If you’re as big of an NFL enthusiast as I am, your Sunday is jammed packed with all kinds of spectacular highlights: Patrick Mahomes’ unreal 75 yard bomb to Tyreek Hill, Kyler Murray’s Baby Yoda celebration, and a surprise upset of the Kansas City Chiefs by Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens. With football finally kicking into full gear as Week 3 arrives, viewership remains a primary focus not just for the future of the NFL, but for national TV ratings and the sports industry as a whole.
After multiple COVID-ridden seasons across the NFL, NBA, and other professional leagues, the 2021-22 NFL season is more important than the public may believe. According to Sportico, since the start of the TV season on September 21, 2020, current data reports a 10% decline from 2019 in viewership, translating to a net loss of 21.3 million TV viewers per night. Given that the world was forced into a lockdown and consumers were glued to their screens, shouldn’t TV ratings be up? Luring consumers away from linear TV, popular streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video took advantage of this opportunity and experienced a surge in subscribers with their binge-worthy content.
Heading into the 2021 fall season, the growing competition between linear TV and streaming platforms lies in the hands of the NFL, a promising professional league that has performed quite well to start off the season in spite of other competing forms of entertainment.
ESPN reports that the NFL’s opening weekend averaged 17.4 million viewers across television and digital properties, producing a 7% increase in viewership since the last season. These numbers were the second highest TV ratings for Week 1 since the past five seasons and totaled about 23.2 billion minutes in viewership as well. With primetime games between the Chiefs and Ravens generating the largest television audiences of the night, TV ratings are trending in the right direction to boost viewership for linear TV.
If the NFL continues such growth on national screens, sky's the limit for TV viewership that can rely on popular icons such as Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson to take over the mantle from Tom Brady.