Questions about the NFL’s ratings viability dissolved somewhat during the Feb. 5 Super Bowl, where the New England Patriots scored the winning touchdown in overtime. The game drew an average 113.7 million viewers — a turnaround from regular-season ratings but down slightly from 2016’s big game. “What we learned is that the NFL is, was and likely will remain the most important broadcast property in the U.S.,” says Marc Ganis, president of Chicago marketing firm Sportscorp.
The season, hurt by weak matchups and the election, ended with the fifth-most-watched program in history — aided by a record 1.7 million average streaming viewers, up 21 percent from 2016. And the NFL already is working to ensure 2017 starts out on an optimistic note. Sources suggest improving game watchability will be a big talking point at the league’s annual meeting in March. After all, football’s success is judged on its own barometer. “We try to compare the NFL against any kind of broadcasting,” adds Ganis, “but the only thing we can compare it to is itself.”
This story first appeared in the Feb. 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.