NFL

NFL More Popular Thanks to Vick, Favre, HDTV and Fantasy Football

| by Alex Groberman

According to a recent study reported on by The New York Times, Americans are seemingly watching more and more professional football.

Apparently, of the 20 highest-rated programs on TV so for this season, 18 have been NFL games. There doesn't appear to be a particular network that’s privileged enough to host all the ratings-garnering showdowns, though, considering the report says the games were evenly split between NBC, CBS and Fox.

Of course, football has long been anointed America’s “biggest” sport so these results shouldn’t take anyone by surprise. However, some of the reasons why the game has become so popular are pretty interesting.

For one, the big name value of stars like Michael Vick and Brett Favre has fans swarming to their television sets. It seems as though Favre’s slow-but-steady decline has attracted droves of new viewers eager to see the legendary NFL passer in his final season. On top of that, folks are tuning in to see Vick leading the Philadelphia Eagles -- and himself -- to redemption after serving a prison sentence for running a dog-fighting ring.

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Also benefiting football has been advances in the way people can watch television. Thanks to high-definition capabilities, NFL games seem more real than ever before, even if you are just watching from the comfort of your home. In the words of NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol: “HD has been the dollop of frosting on everything else.”

The other huge piece boosting the sport’s appeal is fantasy football. According to the Los Angeles Times, ratings have greatly benefited from the approximately 29 million folks who engage in fantasy leagues season after season. On top of rooting for their favorite teams, fans now have a vested interest in all the games going on during a particular week.

As per the report, NBC’s Sunday night games are up 10 percent this year while CBS’s Sunday afternoon games are up by an equal margin. Fox games are up two percent for 2010, and ESPN’s ratings appear to be on par with last year’s record-breaking totals.

With three games left in the season, “Sunday Night Football” on NBC is on its way to being the most-watched primetime broadcast of the fall season.

Also noted in the report: The top 13 cable broadcasts of the year also happened to be NFL games. The always-targeted, young-adult demographic tends to be a big draw when it comes to “Monday Night Football,” and women are getting in on the action too. NBC’s Sunday night games rank third in primetime this year with women ages 18-to-49.