The good news for professional football and the networks and advertisers who invest heavily in the games is that its viewing audience is extremely loyal. A survey of 600 fans who watched at least once during last weekend’s season-opening round of games found that 80% plan to follow pro football regularly, compared to 20% who said they’ll only watch occasionally.
A less reassuring data point for the pro football industry is that the younger the fan, the less likely they are to be a regular viewer. The 21- to 24-year-old bracket expressed the least loyalty, with 72% saying they’d watch regularly, compared to 82% among 25- to 34-year-olds and 85% for ages 35 to 44.
Still, among fans who watched during the opening weekend, 41% of all respondents said they expect to watch more pro football this season than they did in 2017, and only 4% said they’ll watch less often – with younger viewers matching the overall averages.
Amid widespread speculation that pro football’s command on American sports fans is slipping a bit, as reflected in TV ratings, MFour fielded a survey the morning after the season’s first long weekend had ended. The respondents were the sport's core demographic - males nationwide, ages 21 to 44.
One major change affecting sports viewership is the advent of streaming services that are seizing a share of the audience from cable, satellite and terrestrial carriers.
- 15% of the fans surveyed said they were streaming NFL games instead of using a legacy viewing platform.
- The average football streamer reported using two different services; the favorites were YouTube (41%), the NFL App (37%), Amazon Prime (30%), and Hulu with Live TV (21%).
The television set hasn’t lost its hold on viewers, with 90% reporting that they watched a game on a TV. But survey results underscored how we’re living in an age of multiple devices for individual consumers – and that the younger they are, the more device-diversified they are likely to be.
Here’s a comparison of 21- to 24-year-olds vs. the primarily Gen X audience in the 35 to 44 age bracket. Figures for the younger adults, including 21-year-olds who the U.S. Census Bureau categorizes as the leading edge of Gen Z, are stated first:
- TV screens: 89% vs. 93%
- Mobile phones: 36% vs. 23%
- PCs: 32% vs.12%
- Game consoles: 22% vs. 8%.
The older the respondent, the more likely he’d be watching at home: 87% of the Gen Xers, 76% of Millennials ages 25 to 34, and 69% in the younger-adult group. The inverse was true of watching games in a bar or restaurant, frequented by 13% of fans under 35, and 7% among those 35 to 44.
Watching football was a solitary pursuit for 21% of respondents; at the other end of the spectrum, 13% said they’d watched with 7 or more other people; 38% watched in groups of two or three.
Also of interest:
- Nearly half the fans (46%) said they had fantasy football wagers riding on players’ performances.
- 61% of the fantasy players said they were enrolled in two or more leagues.
- 12% are playing in at least four leagues.
Pro football Sundays (and Thursdays and Mondays) provide excitement for providers of food and drinks as well as the fans who consume them.
- 72% of respondents said they had snack foods such as chips and dips during a game, 62% ate hot food, and 53% imbibed alcoholic drinks.
- Beer and football go together like touchdowns and points after: 87% of those who drank said they’d had a beer.
- 45% downed liquor or mixed drinks, 16% went for flavored malt beverages, 10% sipped wine, and 9% had hard cider. So there was a whole lotta mixin’ going on. The survey did not query respondents about post-game stomach distress.
- The most-favored beer brands were Bud Light (consumed by 35% of the survey's beer-drinkers), Corona (28%), Coors Light (21%), Budweiser (21%), Miler Lite (19%), Blue Moon (19%) and Heineken (17%).
As for the Super Bowl, the biggest event of the season for watching and consuming, 31 of the 32 NFL teams got votes when asked who would win.
- The Tennessee Titans (no votes), Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers were voted the least likely to succeed, each picked by fewer than 1% of respondents.
- If you believe in the wisdom of crowds (which, after all, is the fundamental tenet of consumer research), the smart money, as usual, is on the Patriots (17%), followed by the Rams (11%), Packers (9%) and Eagles (8%).
Methodology: The 24-question survey was fielded Tuesday, Sept. 11 to U.S. males ages 21 to 44 who use MFour's proprietary mobile research app, Surveys On The Go®. 600 completes were collected within 3 hours. Qualifying respondents stated they are interested in the NFL and had watched at least one televised or streamed game during its opening weekend.
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