NFL UK’s Alistair Kirkwood Says League’s Viewership Numbers Tripled In Last 5 Years
NFL UK Managing Dir Alistair Kirkwood said that American football has been the "seventh most watched sport on Sky this season." The NFL, which currently airs on Sky Sports, Channel 4 and British Eurosport in the U.K., has moved up 12 spots on Sky’s list of most watched sports since the league started playing regular season games at Wembley stadium in ’07. Kirkwood told SBD Global, "Before we started playing games at Wembley, we were 19th. So we've certainly substantially advanced since then. Our viewing figures have tripled in the last five years, so we are on a good kind of growth curve at the moment." There are a total of 25 million households in the U.K. and Kirkwood said that, including last weekend’s first playoff round, 11.5 million people have watched the NFL at some point during the season. While the Wembley games provide the league with a focal point and broader media attention beyond game coverage in the U.K., Kirkwood attributes the viewership growth to a combination of factors. He said, "I think it’s a little bit like on the field, momentum is probably the key thing." The sport itself and the fact that every year the league surprises itself with storylines and great games is probably a major factor, Kirkwood said. In addition, the work of the TV partners combined with that general media attention has really helped the league gain traction in the U.K. However, the Wembley games remain the catalyst for the league's long-term growth in Britain. Kirkwood: "What the Wembley games do is that not only do they give avid fans and Wembley attendees an opportunity to see the game live; it just broadens interest in the sport in general."
ONE THING AT A TIME: The continuing rumors about a potential NFL franchise in the U.K.'s capital currently do not concern the league's London office. Asked about the issue, Kirkwood said, "The biggest sporting cliché that you’ll ever hear is the one that applies for here, which is 'concentrate on one game at a time.'" The league recently announced that it will add another game and play three regular season games at Wembley stadium in ’14, and Kirkwood and his staff are completely focused on making sure that these games are successful. Season tickets have gone on sale for this year's NFL Int'l Series and single-game tickets will go on sale in the next few days. Kirkwood: "Once we’ve gone past that then we’ll start talking internally as to what it means. You are only as good as your last game in this business."