NFL’s TV ratings gains in the UK are overstated

AP

We previously passed along a report about a supposed 80 percent increase in TV viewership for NFL games in the United Kingdom this season. But it turns out that report was spinning the NFL’s UK ratings in a more positive light than is warranted.

A reader who tracks NFL viewership on UK television at NFLUK.com contacted us to point out that the numbers being used to peddle a narrative of a significant ratings increase in the UK are misleading. Those ratings refer to the cumulative total number of viewers who watched all NFL programming in the UK this season as opposed to last season — but this season there’s more NFL programming available in the UK than there was last year, thanks to new highlight shows on BBC. So it’s no surprise that the cumulative total viewership is higher.

A better apples-to-apples comparison for TV viewership in the UK is how this year’s first London game, Colts-Jaguars, fared on BBC2 compared to last year’s Bills-Jaguars game in London. And on that score, the NFL isn’t growing in London: The Colts-Jaguars game drew 351,000 viewers on BBC2, a decrease compared to the 381,000 viewers for Bills-Jaguars last year on BBC2. This year’s Colts-Jaguars game did draw a larger audience than last year’s other early London game on BBC2, Jets-Dolphins, although that game’s ratings were lower because it aired at the same time as the Rugby World Cup.

Whether the NFL ever becomes appointment viewing for large numbers of UK fans remains to be seen. Right now, in a country of about 65 million people, less than 1 percent watch a typical NFL game.

28 responses to “NFL’s TV ratings gains in the UK are overstated

  1. If 1 person watches a game one year, then 2 watch a game the next, that’s a 100% increase, but it’s still just 2 people. Numbers can be skewed to look almost however you want them to.

  2. It would be worth comparing this to what the number of people watching a football (soccer) game are. A lot of people don’t have Sky (satellite tv) and are therefore unable to watch basically any live sport

  3. The league and the serial liar Goodell were not telling the complete truth about ratings? The earth is round. the sun rises in the east and Goodell and the NFL lies.

  4. The NFL is really on a roll. Can’t wait for the report that says domestic violence is no longer a problem, fans want more flags and commercials, and Rog Goodell’s approval ratings are at 100%. IMO, the US Govt. should really think about putting “Sheriff Rog” in charge of The War on Drugs.

  5. They’re interested in football like Americans are interested in Soccer. As in, a few people might fall asleep watching ESPN3 and accidentally “watch” a soccer match.

  6. The ratings thing is outdated with new technology and “other means” people find ways to watch the game. It doesn’t cover everyone either so it’s never an exact science. Not saying that there are less people watching this year I believe it but I feel the ratings thing is not very accurate to begin with.

  7. @bengalsfan2079:
    You are correct that there isn’t any accuracy in TV ratings. But they have to try to find some way to quantify them in order to set rates for advertisers.

  8. hang3xc says:
    Oct 22, 2016 4:09 PM

    If 1 person watches a game one year, then 2 watch a game the next, that’s a 100% increase, but it’s still just 2 people. Numbers can be skewed to look almost however you want them to.
    __________________________________

    hang3xc – you are one smart cookie. Excellent post. Be careful, goddell or manning might send some guys in dark suits to “hush” you.

    If you are asked as your favorite scent: do you prefer the smell of skunk or the smell of rotting flesh, and you choose skunk… that means you prefer the smell of skunk as your favorite scent… according to nfl logic.

  9. Then are not you to blame for not researching your story? Viewer ship is up. I don’t understand. So you’re upset at the NFL for giving you facts that you misinterpreted?

  10. bengalsfan2079 says:
    Oct 22, 2016 5:06 PM
    The ratings thing is outdated with new technology and “other means” people find ways to watch the game. It doesn’t cover everyone either so it’s never an exact science. Not saying that there are less people watching this year I believe it but I feel the ratings thing is not very accurate to begin with.
    _________________

    The pure volume number may not be as relevant given how many individuals might be viewing by alternate means but the disconcerting indicator isn’t viewers anyway, it’s share. Share measures what portion of people that are watching TV at any given moment are watching a particular program and the league’s share has dropped in line with the overall numbers. Taking alternative methods into account is also not taking into account that 71% of NFL fans are over 35, a demographic that doesn’t lend itself to the online viewing more representative of millennials.

  11. The NFL needs to stop this pipe dream on international play. Cities that lose 1/8 of their regular chance to root and have $$$ come in really do not appreciate it. Maybe that causes the ratings to go down a little bit too.

    Should get rid of Thursday NIght too.

    Full Time Refs too.

    Get rid of Godell.

  12. What was that line Goodell used, or maybe it was the NFL or both during the Deflategate hearinga, that their communications with the public dont need to be truthful.

    Boy they seem to just make up stuff to make their incompent donkeys look competent.

    How has the FBI not raided their offices yet

  13. Hello? NFL owners? I don’t think this term “unquestioned integrity” means what you all seem to THINK it means.

    Your own rules say that Roger Goodell “shall have unquestioned integrity”

    I challenge any owner to stand up in public and say ” I believe Roger Goodell has unquestioned integrity”

    That would at least be good for a laugh.

    But seriously. Fire him. Your rules say you must.

  14. Hello? NFL owners? I don’t think this term “unquestioned integrity” means what you all seem to THINK it means.

    Your own rules say that Roger Goodell “shall have unquestioned integrity”

    I challenge any owner to stand up in public and say ” I believe Roger Goodell has unquestioned integrity”

    That would at least be good for a laugh.

    But seriously. Fire him. Your rules say you must.

  15. The games they get over there are all leftovers, equivalent to a ‘friendly’. Of course ratings are low.

  16. Florio: “— but this season there’s more NFL programming available in the UK than there was last year, thanks to new highlight shows on BBC. So it’s no surprise that the cumulative total viewership is higher.”
    ———————————-
    Mike, the BBC Highlights shows ran last year too – I saw one on a visit to my English relatives. But the biggest problem compared to the past is that Channels 4 and 5 used to show the Sunday and Monday night games live, but you can only watch them on cable nowadays. That means the London games and the Super Bowl are the only full live games that most British fans (i.e. those without premium cable options) can see.

    As to another commenter suggest ing Germany would be a better place for NFL games – firstly its another hour east; secondly the UK fanbase is much bigger; thirdly London is more of s World hub of any city other than NY; fourthly its thought that as rugby is huge there, that there’s more potential/familiarity for fans.

  17. j0esixpack says:
    Oct 22, 2016 8:13 PM
    Hello? NFL owners? I don’t think this term “unquestioned integrity” means what you all seem to THINK it means.

    Your own rules say that Roger Goodell “shall have unquestioned integrity”

    I challenge any owner to stand up in public and say ” I believe Roger Goodell has unquestioned integrity”

    That would at least be good for a laugh.

    But seriously. Fire him. Your rules say you must.
    ==========================
    I’ve wondered about that for a long time as well. But what I’ve come to realize is that it is not intended as a requirement of the commissioner but as a requirement imposed on the owners, players, fans, Judges, Congress and anyone else. That is, we are not permitted to question his integrity. By NFL rule, it shall remain unquestioned. That’s the only thing that makes sense to me.

  18. 351,000 viewers for an NFL game in a country of 65,000,000? I bet more people watch a high school playoff game in Texas! The NFL needs to admit that not every experiment gives you the results you want. Wait a minute, if you hire the right people to do the “testing” then will get the results you seek.

  19. The main outlet for the NFL in the U.K Is Sky Sports. This saw a 40% decrease in audience viewing for this years Super Bowl in comparison with the previous year. The average viewing figure for the live NFL games in the current season is approximately 50,000. These are very low viewing figures even for a pay per view channel ( Premier league games operate between 1.2 million to 2 million viewers). The terrestrial TV figures are also small and are surpassed by a variety of sports including darts and snooker. The NFL has consistently overstated the popularity of the sport in the UK. It has never grown beyond being a niche sport and shows little ability to make an impact on the UK sporting map.

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