After a couple of years, the NFL ratings are higher over the first three months of the 2019 season. One major co-owner has linked this jump to something the league has been avoiding for decades.
Speaking on CNBC, New York Giants co-owner Jonathan Tisch claimed the expansion of regulated sports betting to over a dozen states this fall is partly to thank for the five percent increase in viewership over 2018.
The league is looking for consecutive years of gains, following drops in ratings from 2016 and 2017 blamed on everything from protests and Trump to concussions and major stars getting injured or retiring.
2019 NFL Ratings Boost
The NFL is king of pro sports, as it has been since at least 2000. The league still runs almost all games on broadcast television, which means higher audiences and far more money than other sports. In contrast, the NBA’s opening weeks have seen audiences down 20 percent on TNT and ESPN.
“If you are betting on a certain game, you’re going to watch to see what happens, and you’re going to watch ‘til the bitter end because many games that are won with a field goal with three seconds left,” Tisch said.
“When you look at how popular gaming and fantasy football are, more people are staying home and watching.”
Yes, it’s possible to get a new widescreen TV for the price of a game ticket, parking, and concessions. Instead of waiting for halftime to use the bathroom and standing in long lines, fans can pause live games and use their own facilities.
I worked in the NFL – I get both sides of the argument.
The NFL also saw a big jump in streaming numbers, with those ratings up 49 percent. However, online broadcasts average around half a million viewers so we’re still not near the numbers of a network broadcast.
While it’s good to see the NFL has embraced the spread of online sports betting in NJ (it doesn’t hurt those companies have offered lucrative sponsorship deals, bought lots of ad time during games, and even broadcast partner Fox has their own book now), it has to be frustrating to those who battled major leagues for decades as they resisted the expansion of regulated wagering.
The North American leagues spent millions on court cases to prop up PASPA for over 25 years against states who just wanted to give constituents what’s readily available overseas. CBS employed Vegas oddsmaker Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder and dominated the pre-game market for years with his picks but he could never explicitly say if he liked a team to cover a given spread.
The books have given fans a reason to watch games that would more than likely be shut off in favor of some constructive activity.
The NFL has probably not gotten BETTER as an overall product for the last couple of years. However, it’s compelling “content” and that can be marketed or sold a multitude of ways, including wagering.
Overall, the ratings bump comes as a welcome relief to fans. The NFL has become perhaps the last unifying cultural institution in an increasingly divided country. Ask anyone in a major market: is Monday morning better/easier when the local team wins or loses?
The stronger ratings also give the NFL more leverage when negotiating TV deals, as they are currently. Following that will be labor talks, and a bigger pie of money can help avoid a work stoppage.
It may not, given the players’ desire for other concessions, but it probably can’t hurt.
So congratulations fans, you’ve helped the NFL get back their ratings swagger. You’ve proved those who thought regulated/taxed sports betting wouldn’t catch on.
You’ve promoted the expansion to other states and shown the online market is the preferred method. Now if we can JUST get more books to offer more game props, like defensive scores.