The NFL dominates television. Walk into any sportsbook, any time of year, and the biggest and easiest-to-find board is the one with NFL odds. Walk by any of the 32 stadiums that host NFL games, and it’s clear how it anchors the economic growth of the neighborhood around it.
There is no question that the NFL is the most popular game in town, and it’s only growing.
A Natural Fit
Since the earliest days of athletic competition, there has been something about physical confrontations that appeal to the sports fan. Fortunately, society has evolved beyond gladiators fighting to the death, but that ancient and visceral desire to see a test of strength and willpower never went away. That’s one reason why so many people gravitate to football.
For the fan who prefers speed, football has that too. If you want to see highly practiced skills, the NFL has that in spades. And if you want to see the best overall athletes in the world push their bodies to the limit, football is for you.
The Perfect League
All credit goes to the early adopters of football and those that created the National Football League. Having everyone play on a single day of the week was genius in how it created the feeling of an event. Baseball, basketball, and hockey are all great sports, but unless you have a schedule handy, you never really know if they’re playing.
When you wake up Sunday morning, you know what day it is. You know what’s coming. The NFL is center stage, and all other cultural and entertainment events move to the rear. Everything becomes about football, and the community gathers to celebrate it.
The game changed, television became involved, and the money began flowing. But still, the geniuses in charge made sure that unlike other sports, where there is a huge imbalance of revenue, the NFL would share it.
Keeping small markets, like Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and Green Bay, competitive with the huge markets in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago has been pivotal in keeping fans passionate and engaged from season to season.
Starting in 2023, the new television contract kicks in for the NFL, and it is going to pay the league $110 billion over the course of 11 years. It is the richest television deal in American sports history, and it is keeping all of the 32 NFL teams squarely in the black.
The reason the NFL can draw that kind of money from networks that have seen television viewership diversify so much over the last ten years is because of the ratings. Everyone has hundreds of channels and a half-dozen streaming services, but 75 of the top 100 television programs in 2021 were NFL football games.
The 272 regular-season games averaged 17.1 million viewers, and the top 16 broadcasts during the football season were all NFL games. That means that NFL viewers watched 370 billion minutes of football this past season. That comes out to just more than 704 years worth of non-stop TV viewing.
One of the reasons that there is such a hunger to make sports betting legal in all 50 states is the popularity of the NFL.
More than 45 million Americans are estimated to have placed an NFL bet in the last year. And with an estimated 470 million other fans worldwide, and many in countries where NFL betting is legal, that number only grows.
Breaking down those numbers, even more, an estimated 15 million Americans participated in paid fantasy football or other NFL pools.
Twenty million Americans are placing NFL bets through the growing number of online sportsbooks. Another 11 million will place NFL bets at a physical sportsbook. And more than 23 million Americans placed bets on the Super Bowl.
For that special Sunday in February, the most official of unofficial national holidays in the United States, more than $4.5 billion is wagered.
Whether the NFL’s popularity is pushing sports betting expansion, or sports betting expansion is helping to grow the popularity of the NFL, the public is consuming it at a record rate, and the money keeps rolling in.