Bill Carter at The New York Times highlights the NFL’s performance for the on television networks:
“Of the 20 highest-rated telecasts of any kind so far this television season, 18 have been N.F.L. games on CBS, NBC or Fox. In terms of the best of 2010, nothing else comes close. Of the 50 highest-rated programs during the calendar year, 27 have been N.F.L. games, including 8 of the top 10.”
But for all of that I find it interesting that football is nothing more than a loss leader:
“None of that means the networks make money from the games. Rights fees are huge (the league takes in about $4 billion a year in television money) and losses for the networks are routine. But no network is complaining. The games provide audience circulation like nothing else the networks can buy, and they use the once-a-week mass assemblage to promote their other programs.”
Scott Miller at the National Football Post thinks that the high ratings are driven by fantasy football and gambling. He cites some interesting statistics from CNN and CNBC:
Approximately 29 million Americans play fantasy football, and in 2009, the industry was estimated at $800 million.
Plus, the NFL alone sees $80-100 billion in illegal wagering per year, according to a CNBC investigation entitled “The Big Business of Illegal Gambling.” That doesn’t include every bet that’s placed legally in Las Vegas sportsbooks.
Regardless, I think the networks would do better to keep the NFL but at the same time to takes some chances and invest in some original programming. No sport of any kind is going to help ratings if your new programs amount to another doctor/cop/lawyer show. I can see the executives in their meeting rooms now: “I know! How about CSI Mauritania?”