So what have we learned after the first quarter of the NFL season? Well first and foremost, the NFL continues its dominance amongst American professional sports as the premier league, not only in this country but also the world.
In 2014, the average NFL game drew 68,776 fans, more than 25,000 fans per game than the next-highest league (the German Bundesliga with 43,500). The English Premier League was third at 36,695 and Major League Baseball was fifth at 30,346. So far this year the NFL is right on par as last year at 68,000 fans a game in attendance per game.
In terms of television, the league continues to do extremely well. The opening game between the Patriots and the Steelers was the highest ever TV rating for an NFL opening game. The game tied the Vikings and Saints from 2010 with a 17.7 rating, which was up five percent from last season’s opening tilt between the Packers and the Seahawks. Given all the media coverage surrounding Tom Brady and Commissioner Rodger Goodell’s prior to the game, the record high TV ratings prove that scandal didn’t drive fans from the NFL, rather, it brought them in.
The NFL continued their tradition of playing games across the pond in London this past week when the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets played in the famous Wembley Stadium. This season’s international NFL matchup was the second-fastest selling game in the eight year history of the professional football league’s International Series. In fact, only the inaugural 2007 matchup that pitted the Dolphins against the New York Giants sold out quicker than this year’s game. The tickets to the game ranged from $26.53 to $241.08 according to the NFL UK website as 90% of the ticket holders were reported to be from the UK. These have been extremely lucrative to the league, as last year’s three matchups generated an estimated $30 million in revenue. This game was the first of three games to be held at Wembley Stadium this year, with the Bills playing the Jaguars on October 25th, and the Lions playing the Chiefs on November 1st . Both of these games are expected to sell out.
On the field there are still several, six to be exact, undefeated teams including the Bengals, Packers, Falcons, Panthers, Broncos and of course the Patariots. The New England Patriots Power Rating Index actually ranks this year’s team even higher than the 2007 undefeated team. Perhaps the two biggest surprises of those 6 undefeated teams come from the same division, the NFL South with the Atlanta Falcons and the Carolina Panthers both remaining perfect through four games.
A big talking point among the sports gambling world is the amount of buzz around Draft Kings and Fan Duel. These two startup gambling sites have made a killing from fan to fan wagering surrounding NFL games. DraftKings, a $1.2 billion, Boston-based startup, has raised $375 million in venture capital funding from investors like MLB’s venture arm, Melo7 Tech partners, the NHL, and Redpoint Ventures.
Since August 1, Draft Kings has spent $81 million on 22,000 ad spots, while Fan-Duel (another billion dollar fantasy sports startup), has spent $20 million on 7,500 advertisement airings according to the Wall Street Journal. The front-end heavy marketing strategy has paid off for DraftKings as they have grown their users from 3 million to 4.5 million over the course of the last month.
All the media coverage on the recent surge of both of these sports wagering startups has triggered lots of discussion of legislation changes and other policies being put in place. Both companies have temporarily banned employees from wagering on sports. Meanwhile, much state legislation has been discussed with politicians engaging in conversation about policies of banning online gambling.
Regardless, the NFL continues to soar as the world’s most successful sports league across the vast majority of key performance indicators.