Why is nobody watching NFL anymore? That might sound like a flippant question to ask, but the TV ratings suggest that the popularity of the product is at a marked low right now. Super Bowl LV was watched by 96.4 million people – a considerable amount, of course, but actually the lowest audience for the Vince Lombardi Trophy game since 2007.
There were big names like Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Patrick Mahomes involved, but the feeling is that the identity of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs wasn’t exciting enough. This is surprising considering that the Chiefs are the sportsbook favorites in the Super Bowl LVI American football odds. This lack of excitement with armchair spectators, despite the high-profile teams, suggests that the networks may have a headache to overcome in the early part of 2022.
Another contributory factor could be how one-sided the games can be. With Brady pulling the strings as per, the Bucs are able to dominate from the get-go and it isn’t long before they can run up a comfortable lead. It is thought that close games are simply better at retaining an audience – crucial when totting up the overall viewing figures.
Sadly for the NFL, the disappointing ratings for the Super Bowl were a reflection of the overall 2020 season, which saw numbers down across the various networks. The industry body Nielsen has revealed that the average audience figure for an NFL game last season was 14.9 million – that is a decrease of nearly 10% compared to 2019.
The concern is that the appetite for American football is on the wane, and broadcasters will be desperate to find ways to revitalize their output in order to get people back on board. For context, ratings for the NBA are up in the 2020-21 season, which suggests the NFL’s loss is not representative of sports as a whole. So, what can be done to put bums on seats in front of the big game?
Cometh the Hour
Maybe now is the perfect juncture for a new name to come along and shake-up NFL broadcasting. So cometh the hour, cometh the man – or Amazon, to be precise.
The global powerhouse has started to dip its toe into the water of sports broadcasting in recent years, acquiring the rights to some soccer and rugby games in the UK and producing their own in-house documentaries.
Now, they are reportedly in talks with NFL officials over the purchase of rights to show Thursday night games, with a figure of $1 billion being touted in the press. Amazon would use their Prime platform to stream the games, and it is believed they have inquired about the possibility of complete exclusivity on showcasing the Thursday action.
As it stands, Amazon Prime does show some Thursday games in the NFL. However, that is a ‘simulcast’ in conjunction with other providers, and now the retail giant wants to drive up its output by squeezing the rest of the market out of the way.
Elsewhere, it is believed that Fox Sports will sign a ‘double your money’ deal to continue their showing of Sunday matches, upping their investment from $1.1 billion to $2 billion. Even though viewing figures have been on the wane, the scramble to secure NFL broadcast rights has never been so fierce.