New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
The NFL’s ratings took a hit in its season-opening week, and a new study about the online viewing habits of young men seems to portend a growing gap in the audience for traditional sports.
The survey, conducted by Limelight Networks, shows that men ages 18 to 25 prefer watching eSports to traditional sports or TV shows.
eSports — basically video-game competitions — came in second only to movie watching among the demographic’s most popular modes of online video consumption. It beat TV shows, news, and traditional sports.
Men of all other age groups surveyed preferred watching traditional sports to eSports.
It’s worth noting that the survey only considered online viewing, but with the viewing of video increasingly shifting there, it suggests a bright future for eSports.
Ratings troubles for the NFL
The survey comes at a precarious time for NFL TV ratings.
In week one of the NFL season last weekend, the league’s ratings dropped 13% from 2016’s week one in live and same-day average viewers, according to UBS.
Though UBS partly attributes the ratings drop to the effects of Hurricane Irma, which sent millions of viewers to cable news network coverage of the storm over the weekend, the NFL has nonetheless been facing questions about weak viewership.
Last season, NFL ratings were down 9% in the regular season and 6% in the playoffs. At the time, experts speculated that the drop could have been due to the ratings prominence of the November 2016 presidential election, but that was contradicted by the fact that ratings were still down 5% after the election.
In August, UBS predicted that NFL regular season ratings would rebound in 2017, citing a slight uptick in preseason viewership.
But after a dismal week one, the questions about the future are back.