Sports

NFL popularity booms as game-day viewership continues to grow

The NFL is responsible for 93 of the top 100 most-watched television programs in 2023, up from 82 the previous year and 72 in 2020.

NFL popularity booms as game-day viewership continues to grow
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) throws over Buffalo Bills defensive end Greg Rousseau (50).
Adrian Kraus / AP
SMS

It was a jam-packed two days of NFL action this past weekend, and now just four teams remain for a shot at the Super Bowl title. But it was also a big weekend for the NFL as the league continues to set new television viewership and revenue records.

To say the NFL's popularity over the past decade has been anything other than a roller coaster would be an understatement. The league is now on the up and up as it continues to reach new heights.

While some fans are probably tired of hearing about Taylor Swift, the girlfriend of Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce has undeniably been a driving force behind the league's considerable rise in ratings this season. Mike McCarthy, senior writer at Front Office Sports, says it's a trend that not only Swift fans, but also the NFL, are grateful for.

"The CBSs and the ESPNs and the NBCs have made it their business to really give us the best production you've ever seen," McCarthy told Scripps News. "Now you've got millions of Swifties tuning in to watch the game."

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Meanwhile, the NFL continues to set records. ESPN's divisional game Saturday between the Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens set an all-time record for the outlet, with 31.8 million viewers tuning in. Five of ESPN's most-watched games on TV have also come in the past 13 months alone.

Additionally, a report earlier this month shows that the NFL made up 93 of the top 100 broadcast programs in 2023. That's up from 82 the previous year, and 72 in 2020.

"Rather than running away from concussions and the issue of players committing domestic violence, they [the NFL] tackled them," McCarthy said. "They did their best to get out in front of these issues."

Fans are getting in the action, too. NFL merchandise sales were valued at $12.13 billion this year, according to Transparency Market Research. By 2031, that number is expected to grow to $20 billion.

"It's the unofficial American religion," McCarthy added. "I think it's bound up with patriotism and hard work and teamwork."