Believe it or Not, NFL Having a Down Year Entering the Super Bowl

Posted by | February 1, 2013 at 8:15 AM

While the National Football League remains the titan of American television, the league enters Super Bowl XLVII in the midst of a viewership slump.

The first three rounds of the 2013 NFL Playoffs hit multi-year lows in viewership. The Conference Championship games averaged 44.9 million viewers on CBS and FOX, down 16% from last year (53.7M), down 16% from 2011 (53.4M), and the lowest average for the round since 2009 (39.6M).

Earlier rounds did not fare much better. The Divisional Round averaged 34.0 million viewers on CBS and FOX, down 7% from last year (36.6M), down 3% from 2011 (35.1M). One week earlier, the Wild Card round averaged 30.4 million on NBC, CBS and FOX — down 2% from last year (31.0M), and down 6% from 2011 (32.3M).

Both the Wild Card and Divisional rounds were the least-viewed since 2010.

Overall, eight of the eleven NFL playoff games thus far have had declines in viewership compared to last year. The only exceptions were the Bengals/Texans and Colts/Ravens Wild Card games and the Seahawks/Falcons Divisional Round game.

The postseason declines continue a trend from the regular season. NBC, FOX and CBS each had their least-viewed seasons since 2009-10, while ESPN had its lowest rated season since 2008-09. The only NFL broadcast partner to have an increase in the regular season was NFL Network, which hit a record-high.

Average NFL Viewership By Window/Round

Window/Round TCs Net Viewers Least Viewed Since
Conference Championship
2
CBS, FOX
44.9M
2008-09
Divisional
4
CBS, FOX
34.0M
2009-10
Wild Card
4
NBC, CBS, FOX
30.4M
2009-10
"Sunday Night Football"
19
NBC
21.4M
2009-10
"NFL on FOX"
27
FOX
19.7M
2009-10
"NFL on CBS"
27
CBS
17.7M
2009-10
"Monday Night Football"
17
ESPN
12.8M
2008-09
"Thursday Night Football"
13
NFLN
6.4M
record-high

(NFL playoff averages from NFL Communications [1], [2], Sports Business Daily)