Have We Reached Peak NFL?

Authored by Charles Hugh Smith via OfTwoMinds blog,

How will the owners and managers of the multi-billion-dollar NFL empire handle the league's decline phase?

OK, I get it: pro football is so popular because it's one of the last refuges of modern life that hasn't been ruined by politics. Oops, scratch that. But we shouldn't pin the decline of pro football's popularity (as measured by viewership) solely on player protests, as the decline predates the recent politicization.

As this chart shows, viewership has been sliding for years across the entire demographic spectrum:

Even more troubling for the multi-billion-dollar NFL empire, the youth demographic is evaporating like mist in a scorching summer day in Death Valley. The problem for the NFL is two-fold: the number of young people who are dedicated NFL viewers is modest, and even worse, it's declining at a fast clip.

I am sure there are plenty of 25-year old fans, but anecdotally, I don't know a single Millennial who has any interest in sitting through a 2-hour pro football game at home, or ponying up the big bucks and huge chunk of time required to attend a game.

Again, anecdotally, young people seem more likely to watch a short clip of the game's highlights on Youtube than devote 2+ hours to sitting through endless annoying TV adverts for a few moments of action.

Or they're investing their sports-related time and money in college or local sports; if they're parents, their time may be devoted to their kids' sports activities.

In other words, pro football is an interest of the older generations that isn't shared by the younger generations. We can chart this progression with an S-curve, which in the case of the NFL, is marked by the "boost phase" of viewership in the 1970s and 1980s as Monday Night Football expanded the TV audience and the league added franchises.

The league reached a maximum audience some years ago, and has now entered the decline phase.

But the NFL's troubles run even deeper than demographics: its fan base is being pressured financially while the cost of attending a game keeps rising. Anecdotally, attending a game costs a small fortune now. Yes, there may be a few cheap seats in the nose-bleed sections, but the costs of getting to the game, parking and refreshments far exceed what attendance cost the previous generation, even adjusting for inflation.

Maybe somebody feels $10 for a beer in a tiny plastic cup suitable for a urine sample and $20 (or more) for a couple of hot dogs or snacks is a fair price, but outside the circle of dedicated fans, it's a ripoff.

Just in case the NFL didn't notice, 95% of the populace is experiencing stagnating wages and rising costs of essentials, leaving less and less to blow on luxuries such as NFL games.

Only the top 5% have the dough to blow on luxuries, and not to put too fine a point on it, but outside of the luxury corporate boxes, the top 5% is not the prime NFL audience for several reasons, including that they're too busy working and taking care of responsibilities to devote precious spare time to watching pro football.

Spending is correlated to income, naturally enough: most of the "recovery" is the result of soaring discretionary spending by the top 5%, not the modest spending that is affordable to the bottom 95%. That means that the advertisers spending big bucks to advertise on NFL TV games are reaching an audience with diminishing cash or credit to spend.

Lastly, the NFL has reached the point of over-saturation. Monday Night Football was an innovation in 1970, but who has time or interest for Thursday morning football, Friday afternoon football, etc.? Then there's the health-related issues (brain damage suffered by players) and the politicization.

To summarize:

1. The NFL has saturated the potential audience to the point of exhaustion.

2. The potential audience is shrinking as student-loan-burdened Millennials have collectively little interest in spending the money or time required to be a rabid fan of pro football.

3. The cost of attending an NFL game is increasingly out of reach of the bottom 95% of households.

4. TV viewership is declining across the entire demographic spectrum.

5. The wages/income of the vast majority of the TV audience has stagnated, and 95% of the populace has less disposable income than a generation ago.

6. The top 5% with the majority of the disposable income are not big pro sports fans, mostly due to the many demands on their time and the diversity of other pursuits available to them.

How will the owners and managers of the multi-billion-dollar NFL empire handle the league's decline phase? Managing the decline phase is less fun than reveling in the expansion phase.

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knukles Herodotus Fri, 12/15/2017 - 13:08 Permalink

Hah ha ha haHow will they handle it?The same way with the same folks inside their collective echo chambers.They've Past their Peak right along with EmpireBUT, there's one good thing come of all this.  TV cameras stay on the field and players instead of screen shots of the fucking electronic circus.That's what a football game when I was a kid showed.Football.Hint hintGoodells nuts for dessert.  Another example of a fuck up being paid millions like nothing happened

In reply to by Herodotus

NoDebt Ecclesia Militans Fri, 12/15/2017 - 13:16 Permalink

Would you watch a sport your Mom wouldn't allow you to play in school and one where everyone's been told since they were kids that everyone who plays gets multiple concussions and ends up as a vegetable later in life?Their recent problems have only hastened the process of turning away from the sport but it would have happened eventually anyway.  They were targeted for termination by the libs long ago.  Now they think they can act like libs and be accepted back into their good graces.  They won't be.  They signed their own death warrant.On the bright side:  We still have hockey. 

In reply to by Ecclesia Militans

HopefulCynical Chupacabra-322 Fri, 12/15/2017 - 15:29 Permalink

Peak NFL is only a symptom of another peak.Well, twin peaks, actually. The specific peak driving peak NFL right now is itself a symptom of the other, larger peak, which is Peak Commie. People are growing increasingly tired of the hysterical Marxist victim culture screeching that is blasted at us from every media orifice in the country - hell, in most of the world, at least the parts where they don't shit in holes...

In reply to by Chupacabra-322

besnook J S Bach Fri, 12/15/2017 - 14:35 Permalink

i quit going to games almost 40 years ago when they asked the audience to participate in ads and interrupted games for ads on tv. i quit watching bball when every team played one token white guy in the 80s. i quit watching baseball when the ownership encouraged the players to take performance enhancing drugs in the 90s. i go fishing now.

In reply to by J S Bach

drstrangelove73 NoDebt Fri, 12/15/2017 - 13:47 Permalink

If you want to see a perfect example of what will happen then look no further than boxing.In the 50’s boxing was IT.I remember sitting in my grandparents living room to watch the Friday Night Fights.All the men were there and it was talked about through the next week.It began to die in the 60’s after a couple of high profile deaths after bouts,and you can see the ignominious state in which it currently exists.The NFL’s future...

In reply to by NoDebt

blueskyranch knukles Fri, 12/15/2017 - 13:41 Permalink

Baseball, so far hasn't been politicized to the extent the other games have. I gave up NFL and now watch some college ball. Kids seem to give it there all whereas NFL players have arrived and now just take a knee...My calendar is already showing the 2018 BB season and I cannot wait for the boys of summer to get back. 

In reply to by knukles

TuPhat ParticularlySt… Fri, 12/15/2017 - 16:29 Permalink

When guys would show up at work wearing an NFL team jacket they would brag about going to the game and everyone else would be jealous.  That was quite a few years ago.  About five years ago a coworker showed up wearing an NFL jacket that he paid over a hundred dollars for and the other guys told him he was an idiot because a jacket without the logo could be purchased at Walmart for 15 bucks.  He was embarrassed and no one brags about buying sports merchandise or going to games anymore.  Won't be long and people will be embarrassed to admit they watched an NFL game.  Basketball has been dead for many years.  Baseball has a little time left.

In reply to by ParticularlySt…

cbxer55 TuPhat Fri, 12/15/2017 - 20:48 Permalink

Basketball ain't dead in Oklahoma. We got the Thunder, don't ya know. And all our local news stations are gaga over the idiots. I mean, one of the players makes like 41 million dollars every fucking year. How the hell do you pay for that? Would love to see attendance go down there, and him have to go sit in a park feeding pigeons. Who in the hell is worth 41 million a year playing a fucking kids game? WTF???

In reply to by TuPhat

Slomotrainwreck knukles Fri, 12/15/2017 - 20:12 Permalink

Starting in July 2018, the government will take over ownership and let everyone have access to the best seats, free hotdogs, 25 cent beers and of course first come - first served. Did I say free Uber rides to the stadium? The players will, of course be paid by the hour at a rate based on corporate entheusiasm.

In reply to by knukles