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NFL sees 8% spike in UK audience for Sunday evening games

Football league’s linear and digital engagement grows 54% YoY.

2 October 2020 Steven Impey

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  • NFL cites new five-year Sky Sports deal as catalyst for UK uptick
  • Subscribers to Game Pass OTT service also up 20% globally

The National Football League’s (NFL) UK viewership for its Sunday evening broadcasts is up eight per cent on the first three weekends of last season.

Though that figure does not include second-screen viewership, overall linear and digital engagement during the campaign’s opening rounds is also up 54 per cent year-on-year (YoY) across the NFL’s digital content and media rights portfolio.

The surge in UK consumption comes on the back of the NFL’s new five-year deal with Sky Sports, signed in August, which has seen the pay-TV network build on its coverage with the launch of the league’s first dedicated channel with an overseas broadcast partner.

Speaking to SportsPro, the NFL’s managing director of international media rights, Sameer Pabari, said that, while it is too early in the season to accurately project the UK’s long-term appetite for the NFL, the recent uptick among fans gives reasons to be optimistic.    

“It’s the first time we’ve worked with a broadcast partner internationally to create something like this,” Pabari continued. “We join the ranks alongside the likes of the Premier League and Formula One as the only leagues on Sky to have their own channel.

“That gives us a much stronger platform to communicate to fans week in week out. Part of Sky’s marketing collateral when they talk about their suite of channels is a fantastic opportunity. Overall, we’re pretty happy with the progress to date but, as I said, it’s pretty early days yet.”

In addition to its new Sky deal, the NFL has also reunited with commercial broadcaster Channel 5 for the first time since 2009, and sees the return of Monday night games on free-to-air (FTA) TV in the UK market.

That arrangement has also seen the creation of unique NFL content to MTV International’s UK digital channels, as part of a wide-ranging deal signed with MTV and Channel 5’s parent company ViacomCBS in September, while the NFL will continue to show highlights via UK public-service broadcaster the BBC.

Pabari also revealed that the NFL’s Game Pass has also seen marked annual growth in the UK market since the start of the 2020 regular season, falling in line with the increased take up of the over-the-top (OTT) service globally.

“Overall, in terms of a Game Pass product, we have seen a year-on-year increase of a little under 20 per cent and that is even without our pre-season window, which is typically our primary sales window,” Pabari continued.

“We’re very encouraged by that, though, at the end of the day, we see a lot more opportunity with Game Pass and right now is a product centred around live games for the most avid fans.

“We think there is an opportunity to grow it more substantially by focusing on a broader set of fans and by investing in a more rounded product … that we can localise and personalise more effectively.”


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