Posts Tagged TV

From global soccer perspective, NFL title game is only semi-super

The NFL should be proud of leading the U.S. TV market – by a mile. Especially after producing a title game that broke viewership records. However, its growth will remain domestic because football simply isn’t that popular internationally. Out there, soccer is king – by several kilometers and gaining. 

Sunday night’s Super Bowl 45 (drop the archaic Roman numerals, please), the championship of America’s favorite TV sport, drew a record 111 million viewers. The Nielson Co. estimate tops the 106.5 million who made last year’s Super Bowl the most-watched U.S. television event ever. At No. 3 is my personal choice, the series finale of “M-A-S-H.” It held the top spot for 27 years.

However, consider the Super Bowl’s 111 million from a global sports perspective:

  • An estimated 4.7 billion people watched the 2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremony, with an estimated 842 million viewers in China alone.
  • Both the 2010 and  2006 FIFA World Cup finals, soccer’s premier event, were watched by more than 700 million people worldwide.
  • The most popular regular-broadcast sports event and TV program is the top pro soccer league in England, the Barclays Premier League. It is broadcast to 600 million households in 202 countries. And that doesn’t count rampant pirate signals and Internet streams we’ve come to expect from our inventive U.K. friends.

“Outside the U.S., Canada and Mexico, only a couple million people see the Super Bowl — and probably a lot of them are expatriate Americans,” Simon Kuper, co-author of “Soccernomics,” told CNN.

Still, give the NFL credit for focusing on an achievable niche – the lucrative U.S. weekend TV sports market. The league has long understood it has a narrow segment with limited global growth potential. Why? Because football is simply not a participant sport in much of the world. The NFL is content to rule a rich little kingdom, and you can’t blame them. For those outraged at the idea of sports being that popular at all, be at peace. Few sports events compare to viewership of major news:

Add in things like Chilean miner rescues and lunar landings, you get the picture. While the Super Bowl deserves kudos for huge ad sales, six times as many people saw England’s top sports championship game. But I’ll bet the cost per minute for that great VW commercial with the kid Darth Vader was a lot more in the U.S. And that’s the bottom line for the NFL.

As for sports events in 2011, my favorite will be the Round of 16 in soccer’s European club championships, the UEFA Champions League, beginning next week and running off and on for three months. About 109 million people watched Barcelona (Spain) beat Manchester United (England) 2-0 in the 2009 UEFA final. That was the first time another sporting event displaced the Super Bowl in viewership, putting a spotlight on the distinctly American appeal of the NFL’s product. How many Brazilian or Dutch players were in the Super Bowl? Most UEFA clubs are cross-pollinated with top players from other national teams (“transfers” instead of “free agents”), increasing the international flavor and interest.

This year’s Champions League final is May 28. It may not have Aaron Rogers, but I promise you even Ryan Giggs of Manchester United is a more interesting story anyway. Tune in for more.

NewOld Flame (Stan Johnston)

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