SBD/Issue 9/Sports Media

Kids Tuned Into NFL In Greater Numbers During Opening Week

NFL Seeing Push To Connect With Kids
Pay Off In Week One TV Ratings

Nielsen indicated that the "largest increase in NFL viewership for any age group during the league's first week ... was a 30% jump among kids under 12," according to Hannah Karp of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. While kids "make up a small fraction of the league's total viewers, they accounted for a healthy 8% of the overall increase." The news "comes at a good time for the NFL, which despite its high profile, has long been the chosen sport of Baby Boomers" -- fans over 55 years old "made up 30% of the league's total viewers in week one." It also suggests that a "recent push by the league to connect to youngsters may be paying off." NFL VP/Fan Strategy & Marketing Peter O'Reilly said the league has put a "major emphasis" on getting kids hooked on the game. Karp notes the NFL in '08 "launched an online fantasy role-playing game called 'Rush Zone' aimed at kids as young as six," and the league said that it "now has two million registered users -- twice as many as it had last year." The league this fall "began airing short cartoons Monday nights on Nicktoons about a 10-year-old San Diego Chargers fan named 'Ish' with football-player super powers." The NFL said that the first episode, "which aired Monday before the season's first game and reran throughout the week, drew 1.4 million viewers." However, "for all the traction the league made with kids, it has shown some preliminary signs of weakness with young people generally." The NFL said that its numbers in '09 "showed growth in viewership among teens," but Nielsen indicated that people aged 12 to 17 and young men between 18 and 24 "both turned out in smaller numbers for week one" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/23).

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