NFL Ratings Up; WaPo Credits the Recession In A Hail Mary Pass

Categories: 1-Featured,TV Sports Ratings & News

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November 6th, 2009

Colts Titans Football

The Washington Post reports that so far this season NFL TV ratings are up:

TV ratings for NFL games this season are up 15 percent from last season and are at a 20-year high for this point in a season; average television viewership is 17.2 million per game, according to The League.

[...]

Ratings for NFL games this season are up 20 percent on NBC, 19 percent on Fox, 4 percent on CBS and 18 percent on ESPN, according to The League.

But following a trend we see too often in the TV media (maybe in other media that I don't read too); they try an make a cause and effect connection to the recession, with no supporting data.

"I think there's only one answer and that is the NFL and television are actually getting the so-called 'benefit' of the recession," said Neal Pilson, the former president of CBS Sports who now runs a television consulting firm, Pilson Communications. "I think people are making conscious decisions that their entertainment dollars are best spent watching NFL games free on their television sets on Sunday afternoon and Sunday night and Monday night."

But there is no data to back that up. The Post even presents alternative, and to me more compelling reasons:

"These numbers would not be where they are if big-market teams were not doing what they're doing, if there were not compelling story lines, if the broadcast elements weren't what they are," Carter said by telephone. "People aren't just sitting down and watching anything and everything on TV. The NFL is doing something right to keep these viewers engaged."

I don't think the NFL is uniquely "doing something right" this season more than they ever do (unless you subscribe to Michael Wilbon's theory that shackling defenses has made them impotent), but they've got some compelling stories this season like Favre to Minnesota and multiple unbeaten teams late into the season. But saying, "Interesting matchups and another Favre comeback drive NFL ratings" wasn't the story WaPo wanted to write!

 
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