The kickoff for Super Bowl is this coming weekend and, at least according to the sky-high TV ratings of recent playoff games in the United States, American viewers are planning to watch the game in huge numbers. Last year in the U.K., the big game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs drew more than 4 million viewers and listeners in the U.K. according to the NFL – and was the most viewed Super Bowl in the U.K. in 30 years.
It will be interesting to see the viewership levels in the U.K. this time around, without star quarterback Tom Brady playing and with competition from the Winter Olympics. But what is the long-term status of America’s #1 sport in the U.K. and Europe? The answer is mixed, but points to solid growth potential for the league and its media partners moving forward.
Altman Solon first asked sports fans in Europe for their views on the NFL (along with Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association) in 2020 as part of our annual Global Sports Survey. The initial survey found low interest levels for the NFL in a region dominated by European football and the top leagues in each country.
However, those interest levels, at least in the U.K. and Germany, bumped up in the most recent survey, to 16 percent, placing them ahead of other U.S. leagues and on par with non-domestic European premier football leagues in terms of popularity.
The American version of football will never supplant the European football in the U.K. or the continent, but Altman Solon’s survey also shows that the growth in the domestic media rights value for European premier leagues has been stagnant in recent years – in certain cases actually losing value.
While the top European leagues are still very valuable and popular in their home countries, it makes sense for the leagues to focus on international growth, especially in regions like the U.S. and Latin American, in which, per Altman Solon’s survey, they already enjoy solid interest levels. On the flip slide, media companies could look to the NFL and other U.S. based leagues to diversify their sports portfolios and tap into a growing interest in American sports across the region.
Altman Solon, the world’s largest strategy consulting firm exclusively focused on Telecommunications, Media, and Technology, conducted the 2021 Global Sports Survey in August-September with more than 18,000 respondents across 16 countries. Explore additional survey findings here.
Leadership & Oversight