There has been plenty of attention on the NFLs struggles to attract spectators this year. But figures are down for a European upstart too
On Sunday, Arsenal and Tottenham played out a draw in a North London derby that could prove to have serious repercussions for the Premier League title race. But American fans had to get up early or find means to record the match and watch it in a spoiler-proofed room. Kickoff, after all, was at noon in London 7am in New York and 4am in Los Angeles.
Ideally for American fans, the match would have aired live on the NBC Sports Network early Saturday or Sunday afternoon in the United States, but the NBC Sports Network has no input when starting times are ascertained before the season for matches in the first two months of the season. Two British networks, Sky Sports and BT Sport, paid an enormous amount for that privilege understandable given that, despite the Premier Leagues international reach, it is still an English product.
But even a afterwards commencement in New York might not have made a difference, anyway: Premier League telecasts in the US on the NBC Sports Network are down some 17% from a similar point last year.
It is a surprising number, especially since the NBC Sports Group reported in May that Premier League telecasts had captured a record number of spectators for the third straight-out season. New fans were attracted by the tradition and pageantry of English football , not to mention that matches are decided in about two-thirds the time of an advertisement-splotched NFL game.
Sports Media Watch reported that Premier League viewership on NBC has been lower in 35 of 49 broadcast time slots that can be compared to last year. For example, last months Liverpool-Crystal Palace match depicted 769,000 spectators, down from the 1.2 million who had watched Arsenal-Everton in the same slot last year.( Time slots, or windows, are a significant factor. The first of two Premier League matches between Manchester City and Manchester United this season was played at 7am Eastern time on 10 September and depicted 623,000 spectators, about 20% less than the first match between the two challengers a year ago which kicked off at 10 am ET .)
NFL viewership in the US is lagging, too, by about 12%, and Premier League viewership in Britain is reported to be down by 20% this year, an even sharper decline than in the US. So the Premier League ratings decline in the US has not happened in isolation. But the two brands of football in the two countries do seem to have one thing in common.
There might be too much of them.
Its not the NFL, but, in my opinion, I do think that there is kind of an oversaturation, Rick Gentile, a former CBS Sports executive producer who now runs the Seton Hall University athletics poll, told the Guardian of the Premier League. I dont know if Im exactly right, but its been shown that a certain degree of success fosters the powers-that-be, Lets put more in there. And so theres diminishing returns.
Of course, fans dont require a TV to watch athletics when they have access to a laptop or a phone. A spokesman for NBC Sports told the Guardian that viewership of live streaming Premier League matches carried on NBCSports.com is accounting for about 6.5% of its total audience more than double the amount of spectators for similar events a year ago.
Last month, the Atlantic postulated that there existed several factors leading to the sharp decline in NFL viewership in the US one of them being, in all seriousness, the chaotic presidential race, which has been entertaining in its own way. But the article also pointed out that fewer younger people are watching TV, let alone cable TV, than in the old days.
So athletics leagues have had to extend their reach to to grab audiences. Friday night games have been added to the Premier League schedule, and American fans have dozens of midweek European-level games, starting at afternoon Eastern time, from which to select. Arsenal and Tottenham, for example, played Champions League games last week.
And Fox , not NBC, carries Champions League matches in the US.
It can be like, I get confused. Wheres Arsenal again? Gentile told. To me, the whole European soccer phenomenon in the United States is a novelty at this point.
There is a lot for an American sports fan, even a soccer novice, to like about a Premier League match. There is less scoring than American football or NBA, but NBC Sports mostly use British announcers and analysts and include lots of crowd shootings to capture an authentic feel. Because play is continuous, anyway, NBC cant gum up Premier telecasts with a nonstop procession of commercials of which many NFL spectators have grown tired.( There are usually 10 to 15 minutes of actual action in a typical 60 -minute NFL game .) The timings help too the Premier League is not vying against any of the major US athletics leagues at 10 am on a Saturday.
Still, Gentile, a 10 -time Emmy Award winner, remembers when he worked at CBS Sport when the network broadcasted NBA games. The NBA had little buzz and its TV ratings were stagnant, so its new commissioner, David Stern, made a momentous decision. Stern told, Lets cut back. Build the NBA more of a rarity. So he did, Gentile told. It was a wildly successful strategy, and with Michael Jordan coming along, that didnt hurt, either.
The Premier League season has six months to goes, and NBC is optimistic that viewership of Premier League games will jump when the NFL and college football seasons aim and sports fans want to watch something athletic played on grass, sometimes in the cold rain and collecting darkness.
The favourites are back on top in the Premier League too after Leicesters amaze win last year, and favorites tend to draw more here. Of the 15 top Premier League US telecasts before this year, Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United had played in 14. Only United have fought this season if the season ends with a few of those squads still in close arguing figures could rise again.
Read more: www.theguardian.com