The National Football League (NFL) is a unique beast. When you think about the league’s calendar it is the shortest season, which results in the longest offseason. Yet, somehow, the NFL has become the cash cow of all sports.
And it isn’t even close.
For some perspective, just look at the below numbers for the ‘Big 4’ sports, Major League Baseball (MLB) National Hockey League (NHL) and National Basketball Association (NBA), and their championships per average million viewers. Keep in mind in the NHL, MLB and NBA their playoffs are in a series, hence the average viewers over the course of the series.
Let’s get to the numbers:
2021 NBA Finals: 9.91 million average viewers
2021 World Series: 11.75 million average viewers
2021 Stanley Cup Finals: 2.52 million average viewers
Wanting to find something which could be similar to those series, I found how many people watched the NFL’s Divisional Round of the playoffs in 2021. What I found was stunning, but then again when you consider the games which were played it shouldn’t surprise anyone. In case you were wondering, 37.1 million viewers watched the Divisional Round games on average this past season.
Over 37 million watching a series of games is one thing, but when you look at the number for the Super Bowl, you realize the power of the NFL. Take a look at how many people watched Super Bowl 56 between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals.
Super Bowl 56: 101.1 million viewers
Again, for comparison’s sake, for those wondering if that number is up or down from the previous year, just over 92 million people watched Super Bowl 55 between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs.
In 2020, Super Bowl 54, pitting the Chiefs vs. the San Francisco 49ers, averaged 112.3 million viewers across all platforms.
Anytime you can get over 100 million eyeballs on your biggest, and best, product, you are doing something right.
I was reminded again of the power of the NFL this past week. When the league’s legal tampering period began on Monday, it marked the unofficial beginning of free agency. The new league year started Wednesday, and both trades and signings were making headlines.
When you consider the other sports, and the news they were providing, it didn’t matter. The NFL offseason trumped them all. No, there aren’t any real metrics which can give you concrete numbers, but if you pay attention to every aspect of the sports landscape, you know everyone was talking about the NFL this past week.
Let’s look at some other storylines which were competing, and failing, vs. the NFL this past week:
NHL and NBA are entering the stretch run of their regular seasons — Not even close.
MLB lockout ending and reporting to spring training — NFL laughs at it.
NCAA March Madness — Probably the best competition, but the NFL still wins.
The fact the NFL is the king of the sports castle isn’t breaking news, but you have to wonder what would need to happen for another league to give the NFL a run for it’s money? It isn’t as if the NBA, MLB or NHL put out a bad product, but there is something about football which doesn’t even allow for competition in this regard.
As for me, I’m glad the NFL is king, and, no, it isn’t because I run a website based on the Pittsburgh Steelers. At this stage in my life I have found it difficult to keep enough time for those teams who play 162 or 82 games in a season. The NFL is perfect for me. I can follow the news all week, have one game a week, and a shorter regular season. It is perfect for me, and my family.
The NFL is king, and dominates every other sport on the market. That won’t change anytime soon, and I’m glad.
(Note: The Letter From the Editor feature runs every Sunday morning during the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offseason.)