As spending goes up, viewership goes down.
Although last night was the first Super Bowl win for the Eagles in franchise history, it was also one for the NFL to remember for a very different reason. The game with the lowest viewing statistics for a game finale since 2010. This might surprise those who stuck around for the end considering the nail-biting finish the game had. But according to a study conducted by Lotame, the NFL could be quickly losing connection with younger generations.
Lotame discovered that after studying the digital footprints of over 110 million “connected NFL fans” that the majority of people keeping up with their team online have three things in common:
- They’re male
- They’re in the top 71% of the income bracket and have a good credit score
- They’re a homeowner with children (usually at least one teenager)
Following the breadcrumbs can lead to the obvious result that the majority of “connected fans” (i.e. watching games live, checking scorecards, following team stats, and reading player bios) come from the baby boomer generation (aged 45-54).
This is fine for the NFL. For now. With the average life expectancy rate on the rise, the league can milk the profits coming from that generation for the next 30+ years. But what about after that? The future might be looking bleak for the sport as studies show that those between 18-24 had the lowest index of interest at 0.43. Those aged 25-34 did not show much more promise, coming in at a 0.75 interest index.
But hold the ball. Many statistics are showing that last nights game reached more than 100 million people. How can that many viewers be tuning in if interest is waning? Simply by following the timeline of viewership for the game.
It’s true that the Super Bowl is still one of the most widely viewed annual television events. Sports Illustrated reports every year that 19 out of the 20 most-viewed television programs of all time have been Super Bowl games, with the finale of the once glorious M*A*S*H causing the single exception. But this year NFL general viewership fell by nearly 10% during the 2017 season as well as clocking in the lowest ratings in eight years for the end of the game. Why?
The majority of younger generations are not watching the Super Bowl for the game. They’re tuning in for ads and the halftime show, both of which can be streamed. The numbers at the game’s end dip lower than any other point because the ads have run their course and there’s nothing left to hold the audience’s attention.
Super Bowl and NFL ratings will continue to drop slowly but steadily from now on unless they can capture the digital generation’s focus. If not they risk losing huge possible profits, not just with millennials, but with the generations to follow. After all, it often takes a football fan to raise future football fans. It’s time for the league to throw a hail mary.