U.S. Media: ‘Too Much Of A Good Thing?’


After months of no televised sports, the major American sports leagues finally made their return in late July. Now, two months down the road, the NBA and NHL are well into their respective playoffs just in time for the most popular sport in America — the National Football League — to make its return.

But, is there an abundance of sports at a time when TV viewing typically dips? That is a question Wall Street wizard Michael Nathanson, Senior Analyst at MoffettNathanson poses.

What he says could flatten that fresh six-pack of beer and hasten the mold on that cheese pizza.

After back-to-back seasons of strong ratings growth, much focus has been placed on how the NFL will fare this season.

There’s just one fly in the Voltaren: The COVID-19 pandemic forced the NBA and NHL to start their post season much later than usual. As a result, each league’s finals will come during the regular NFL season.

As Nathanson notes, the NFL’s official Sept. 10 opening day marked the first time in history that the NFL, MLB, NBA, WNBA, NHL and MLS all played on the same day.

That can’t be good for marketers or media executives.

Enter Nathanson, who has a whole bees’ nest of buzzworthy issues to share to the TV industry and media planners: “The number of people watching television is typically lower in August and September than in April and May, when the NBA and NHL playoffs are usually held.”

He looked at P2+ prime-time Persons Using Television (PUT) levels from 2019 and found that August was 9% below April. September was 3% below May. “Thus, not only are more sports being played currently than in a typical year, they are airing during a time of the year with especially low television usage.”

Zoinks, Scoob!

“With only so many eyeballs to go around, the leagues have been forced to compete for attention,” Nathanson says. “While we believe the NFL is and will ultimately remain the most popular sport in America, it will be interesting to see how viewership fares over the first weeks of the season as we enter the peak of the NBA and NHL seasons before heading straight into the MLB playoffs.”

Looking forward, the NHL and NBA will finish their seasons and crown their champions by mid-October at the latest, while the MLB playoffs look to avoid airing directly opposite the NFL.

Thus, Nathanson concludes, “while COVID-19 postponements have forced each league to suffer from a paradox of choice in the near term, the NFL will ultimately have the undivided attention of the American public in the back half of the season. Either way, as major sports fans ourselves, we’re just happy to have some semblance of normalcy in these otherwise extraordinary times.”