How important is female fandom to the NFL? Over the last decade plus, the league has benefited from the explosion of women becoming involved with football. In addition to the significant boost in apparel and accessory sales, women watching the NFL caused the fastest growth segment among TV viewers.
But now after a series of dramas with the league from the domestic violence mishandling, Deflategate and overall safety, a closer look shows women are cutting back on watching the sport according to a study released by Nielsen Media Research.
From 2013-2015, women’s viewership has declined across both the 18-34 age group and 25-54. A closer look at those numbers show the erosion hit the highest following the 2014 season. This was the season that saw TMZ leak the video of then-Ravens running back Ray Rice knocked out his fiancée in an Atlantic City elevator, and Greg Hardy accused of beating his ex-girlfriend and throwing her on a coach full of loaded guns.
Per Nielsen, the five broadcasters – CBS, FOX, NBC, ESPN and the league-owned NFL Network – collectively saw a 10% decline with women aged 18-34 and 25-54.
- By the numbers: 2.9 million in 2013 versus 2.6 million in 2015 represents approximately 250,000 women tuning out NFL action.
Let’s see how it breaks out among race:
Black women represented a significant shift. In 2014, viewership dropped by 12% in the 18-34 age group, and 7% each with black women 18-49 and 25-54. Following the 2015 season many black female NFL fans in the 25-54 age group did not return to watch the NFL post Ray Rice.
White women’s numbers are similar to those of black women. They are the largest group among all US women. The NFL saw an 8% slip. For US Asian women, the drop off was more severe at around 30%.
The lone group to see an uptick in viewership, the Hispanic/Latina viewer. Especially in the all important 18-49 group. Over the period, Latina fans grew by 9%. I think that can also be contributed to athletes becoming celebrities and embracing pop culture, during this time frame, the rise of New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz – whose mother is Puerto Rican – was also very active across all areas of entertainment.
During the 2015 season, Latina women aged 18-49 viewers grew by 15% and in the 25-54 demo, it rose by 21%.
The NFL is still king and looks to remain that way for awhile. But how many hits can the shield take before the bottom line takes a hit?
Source: Nielsen Media Research; 2013-15 NFL regular seasons; Live+Same Day, nationally-televised broadcasts only
(CBS, FOX, NBC, ESPN & NFL Network). Women 18-34, Women 18-49, Women 25-54.