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NFL Suffer Biggest Viewership Drop Since 2008

T
he National Football League (NFL) experienced a 7% drop in television viewership for the 2020 season compared to the previous year.

Live games reached an average of 15.4 million viewers over 17-weeks according to Nielsen, compared to the 16.5 million viewers of the previous season. 

The count, however, does not include reschedules games following Coronavirus outbreaks among teams, the figure increases to 15.6 million when these figures are included.

This will be the first time since the 2017 season that the NFL has experienced a drop in viewership after having had 5% increases during their 2018 and 2019 campaigns.

The NFL, however, has managed to make it through 2020 successfully compared to other major US leagues, which suffered double-digit drops in viewership, delayed seasons and games, and schedule interruptions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The US presidential election, which generally contributes to a decline in viewership numbers for the NFL, was less than previous years in 2020; the league’s ratings fell by 8% in 2016.

The league remained the largest draw on US television and accounted for seven of the top ten telecasts in 2020.

Fox was among the league’s domestic broadcast partners paving the way with an average viewership of 18.1 million for its NFC package.

17.4 million viewers watched NBC’s Sunday Night Football (SNF) over the season, a 16% drop from 2019.

According to the Sports Business Journal, it was the least viewed year of coverage since 2008.

Similarly, CBS experienced a decline in viewership to 16.5 million for the AFC package, with ESPN Monday Night Football (MNF) averaging 12.2 million, totalling a drop of 3% since the previous year.

Octagon senior vice president, Daniel Cohen, said: “I think anybody would be lying to you if they’ve not been shocked by some of the double-digit dives.”

The NFL is also in the process of negotiations for its next round of domestic media rights, with ESPN’s contract expiring at the end of the 2021 season, and Fox, CBS, and NBC expiring the following year.

NBC Sports Group president, Jon Miller, predicted the NFL’s next deal will be among the biggest ever in sports.

According to the New York Post, the league will be signing contracts a long as ten years that will ‘far exceed’ $129 billion.