The Future of Football: One in Five Americans less likely to watch when the NFL season begins

May 10, 2011

NEW YORK, May 10, 2011 /PRNewswire/ – Although professional football is America’s favorite sport, there is some talk that the upcoming NFL season may be delayed or even cancelled because the current labor lockout will continue. The NFL did hold its annual draft recently in a somewhat modified and scaled-back format, producing lower viewership and ratings than in previous years. Is that a nod to future interest in the sport, or an anomaly based on the present situation?

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When Americans were asked how much more or less likely they are, if at all, to watch football when the season begins, two thirds report that they will not be any more or less likely to watch (67%) yet one in five say they will be less likely to watch (19%) with 11% much less likely. Very few Americans will be more likely to watch (4%) and 10% are not sure.

These are some of the findings of a recent Adweek/Harris Poll survey of 2,124 U.S. adults surveyed online between April 25 and 27, 2011 by Harris Interactive.

Additional findings of this poll include:

  • The older a person is the less likely they will be to watch football when the season begins — 12% of those 18-34 years old say so, compared to about one in five of those 35-44 (19%) and 45-55 (18%), and 25% of those 55 years and older;
  • Men are somewhat more likely than women to say they are less likely to watch football when it returns (22% vs. 16%);
  • Americans who earn less than $35K per year are least likely to say they will be less likely to watch football when the season begins (16%) and those who earn $35K-$49.9K are most likely to say so (21%). About one in five say so among those who earn $50K-$74.9K (18%) and $75K or more (20%); and,
  • There is little difference by age or gender (and very few people overall) who say they are more likely to watch football when the season begins — between just 3% and 5% of all age groups and both genders say this.

So What?

Although professional football has reigned as America’s favorite sport for many years, between the current labor lockout and increased understanding of the damaging effects of head injuries, the sport may have a rough road ahead. Professional football is a business, as the fierce labor lockout makes abundantly clear, yet if these financial discussions turn off the fans, NFL executives may need to reevaluate their priorities. While players and coaches can be replaced (some more easily than others), the one thing professional football cannot survive without, are the millions of Americans who watch the games, play the related fantasy sports, buy team gear, snacks, beverages and countless other products and services related to the industry. Could you imagine a world with no Super Bowl ads?

                                         TABLE 1
             "There is some talk that the upcoming NFL season may be delayed
                                 because the current labor
              lockout will continue.  If this happens, how much more or less
                             likely, if at all, will you be to
                         watch football when the season begins?"
    Base: All U.S. adults

                         Total              Age                  Gender
                                18-34  35-44   45-54    55+ Male   Female
                           %      %      %       %      %     %       %
    More likely
     (NET)                   4      5      5       3     4      4       4
       Much more likely      2      2      3       2     3      3       2
       Somewhat more
        likely               2      3      2       1     1      1       2
    No change in
     likelihood             67     70     64      67    65     65      68
    Less likely
     (NET)                  19     12     19      18    25     22      16
       Somewhat less
        likely               8      7     10       6     8     11       5
       Much less likely     11      6      9      12    17     11      11
    Not at all sure         10     12     11      12     6      8      11

                          Less    $35K-   $50K-   $75K+
                          than   $49.9K  $74.9K
                            %       %       %       %
    More likely
     (NET)                    5       5       7       2
       Much more likely       3       3       6       1
       Somewhat more
        likely                2       3       2       1
    No change in
     likelihood              65      71      64      72
    Less likely
     (NET)                   16      21      18      20
       Somewhat less
        likely                5       6      10       9
       Much less likely      12      15       8      11
    Not at all sure          14       2      10       5

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding


This Adweek/Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between April 25 and 27, 2011 among 2,124 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Where appropriate, this data were also weighted to reflect the composition of the adult online population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

The Harris Poll® #56, May 10, 2011

By Samantha Braverman, Sr. Project Researcher, Harris Interactive

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us — and our clients — stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.

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