As confirmed by cold, hard consumer data, the television industry is under assault from a variety of entertainment options that have presented themselves with the advent of the internet.
But while it’s true many Americans have been convinced to “cut the cord” by the convenience of Netflix and the freedom of choice offered by YouTube, Nielsen’s year-end TV ratings show that the cable and broadcast networks still have sole possession of one thing many of us simply can’t do without: the National Football League.
Our national pigskin obsession is so great that live NFL football accounted for a staggering nine of the 10 most-watched telecasts of 2013. In an unintentionally hilarious testament to football’s irresistible combination of violence and unpredictability, the top four broadcasts were, in order: The Super Bowl, The Super Bowl (on delay), The Super Bowl (west coast broadcast), and The Super Bowl kick-off show.
As you can see from this helpful graphic we made, the only non-football broadcast was The Oscars, an event that conveniently takes place after football season is over. (In the media business, The Oscars are non-ironically referred to as “the Super Bowl for women.”)
The NFL’s dominance wasn’t just limited to the playoffs. The No. 1 most-watched primetime TV program was NBC’s Sunday Night Football, followed by the Sunday Night Football pre-game show and Fox’s NFL postgame show, “The OT.”
The only cable program to break the top 10? ESPN’s Monday Night Football.
What’s likely most disturbing to TV executives is not just football’s dominance, but the relative lack of appeal held by the other live sports found on television. Already, CBS, Fox, ESPN, and NBC will pay a combined $US4.95 billion to carry NFL games in 2014, up from the $US3.1 billion they paid in the contract ending this season.
The networks will thus be increasingly more reliant on the NFL as the public continues to lose interest in competitors like Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association. While the 2013 Super Bowl failed to eclipse the all-time TV ratings record set by the 2012 game, the slight dip didn’t stop advertisers from paying an average of $US4 million per 30-second spot at this year’s game, a slight uptick from last year’s average of $US3.8 million.
Meanwhile, here’s a chart from Sports Media Watch showing the decline in average ratings (in millions of viewers) for the NBA Finals and the World Series. The NBA Finals is charted in red, while the World Series is charted in blue.
Just a little more proof that football has far and away eclipsed baseball as America’s pastime.
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