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NFL Ratings Beat New Network Shows

Originally published on October 31, 2011 11:31 am
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MICHELE NORRIS, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

The biggest thing on TV is the NFL. Of the 15 most watched broadcasts this fall, 13 were football games. NPR's Sami Yenigun explains how the league has jumped to the top of the TV ratings pile.

SAMI YENIGUN, BYLINE: "American Idol" is a ratings juggernaut. This year, its debut brought 26 million people to their TV screens. But the NFL is bigger. A week before, the Jets and Patriots playoff game brought more than twice that number.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOOTBALL GAME)

YENIGUN: Right now, the networks are pushing their shiny, new fall series. The most watched drama, "Once Upon A Time," got almost 13 million viewers.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHOW, "ONCE UPON A TIME")

YENIGUN: But 11 million more people watched the Packers and Vikings that same day.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOOTBALL GAME)

YENIGUN: That was the day Matthew Corator was watching the games at Buffalo Billiards in Washington, D.C. It's a sprawling bar teeming with buzzed football fans in their NFL jerseys. His team, the Buffalo Bills, had the day off, but he was still glued to the screen.

MATTHEW CORATOR: Well, I basically watch the 1 o'clock games, and I watch some of the 4 o'clock games - and then watch Sunday night, too.

YENIGUN: That's roughly 10 hours of pigskin, not including the pregame shows or the postgame highlights. This year, the NFL is averaging about 18 million viewers a game. And their success has to do with the fact that they have a lot of fingers in a lot of pies.

TOR MYHREN: Within their business, they have dot-com, which is separate than their NFL shop, which is separate than their fantasy league and their women's apparel.

YENIGUN: All of those subsidiaries generate more interest in watching games on television, says Tor Myhren. He runs Grey New York, the NFL's advertising agency, and says that in recent years, the NFL has made it a point to reach out to new audiences.

MYHREN: What we've all realized is that women are incredibly interested in this sport, and they really haven't been spoken to much in the past. And so we've made a real large effort over the last couple years.

YENIGUN: Which means, ladies, there are now NFL ads in your issues of Vogue and Seventeen. The NFL has also scored points with Latinos. Check this out: More Hispanics watched last year's Super Bowl than the last World Cup final. One big reason everyone's watching is because the games look better than ever on TV, says Michael Oriard. He's a former player with the Kansas City Chiefs and author of the book "Brand NFL."

MICHAEL ORIARD: Watching it at home is so extraordinary - you know, with the slow-motion, instant replays with all these camera angles.

YENIGUN: Angles that zoom you in to bone-crunching hits and fingertip grabs, which look even better on HDTVs. By now, over half of all households have an HDTV. That's not the only new technology that's helping the NFL's cause. Almost half of all Americans with a TV own a DVR player. That worries networks because they lose business when their viewers fast-forward through commercials. But NFL watchers aren't fast-forwarding through anything because they're tuning in live, says the NFL's chief marketing officer, Mark Waller.

MARK WALLER: You need to know what's happening when it happens. It doesn't have the same meaning to you if you're finding out about it a day later.

YENIGUN: This year, the NFL's biggest commercial event, Super Bowl LX, drew 111 million viewers to the most visible show in the country's history. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The most recent game was Super Bowl XLV (45), not LX (60.]

Sami Yenigun, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.