It has been interesting to note the slight decline in NFL ratings this season.
The league has been a ratings powerhouse for the past decade, spiking interest not only domestically, but also internationally as the league hopes to become a dominant global sport. The financial power the league holds is now clear in the size of its broadcast network revenue, with each of the major networks paying out top dollar to get access to NFL game broadcast rights. But it wasn’t always quite so extravagant.
In 1962, CBS signed an exclusive deal with the NFL to broadcast games to a growing television audience for $4.65 million. Using the US Government inflation calculator, that works out to about $37.2 million in today’s dollars.
Currently, the networks’ combined spend on their current NFL broadcast contracts is $39.6 billion for seven years, or about $5.7 billion a year to air games on their networks.
Dividing the total amount now spent on NFL game broadcasts by the original spending adjusted for inflation in 1962, shows that the NFL broadcast revenue has increased 150x; not a bad return over the past 50 years.
Of course the audience numbers have obviously increased as well. Sunday Night Football has been a powerhouse for television ratings, often topping the weekly television ratings charts. And while services like ESPN have seen a recent decline in viewership this year, total Monday Night Football ratings over the past few years have been at all-time highs.
Eyeballs equal dollars, and there are very few things that get people in front of the television quite like an NFL game.
But what will be interesting to watch in the coming years, especially at the end of the current television contracts in 2022, will be just how much the NFL is willing to offer via streaming services. Clearly consumers are hoping to see more options when it comes to watching NFL games online, and it will be in the NFL’s best interest to make this easy enough to keep their audiences happy through a modern consumption medium.