NFL TV Ratings Rise in Run to Super Bowl, but is it “Must-have” Programming for All Viewers?

By January 31, 2019Our Ideas

After two years of declining ratings, the National Football League is back to doing blockbuster numbers for the playoffs. The AFC Championship game, an overtime thriller between the Patriots and Chiefs, was watched by 54 million people – more than twice as many viewers as last year’s Academy Awards. There is speculation that this could be the highest rated Super Bowl ever, which would make it the most-viewed show in TV history. In fact, five of the top six highest TV ratings ever have been for the NFL’s showcase event.

However, NFL games, especially in the playoffs, are often community events and run during a part of the year when many Americans are snowed in their homes. Which raises the question: with power players from traditional networks, pay-TV and the tech world all making big plays into NFL programming, how much do viewers value watching the NFL?

For the past several years, Altman Vilandrie & Company has identified the programming on network, cable, and streaming services that viewers value most. In 2018, as part of our annual survey of consumer habits, we asked more than 5000 viewers to choose their “Must-Have” shows from a list of 235 popular programs from network, cable and streaming services.  While news programs (local and national choices) were the two top-ranked choices overall, live sports also performed well with three of the top-six ranked choices: 3)NFL, 4)NCAA Football, 6)Major League Baseball. In addition, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, and NCAA Basketball all ranked in the top 30.

Looking closer at the rankings shows the dominance of the NFL across all age demographics. NFL programming ranked third for both 25-34 year-olds and those 35 and older. It was also tied for 12th among viewers in the 18-25 range, edging out the NBA for the coveted youngest consumers.  The below chart shows how the NFL beats out every other major U.S. sport across all age groups.

Even if Super Bowl LII doesn’t break a record, it is almost certain that more than 100 million people will tune in on Sunday. This could potentially justify the approximately $5 million average price for a 30-second advertisement during the big game. And considering how highly valued NFL programming is among viewers of all ages, there may not be a Super Bowl slump anytime soon.