Twitter Users Attribute Continued NFL Viewership to Sports Betting in ‘Boring’ Season

  • In Week 8 of the NFL season, various Twitter users once again bemoaned “boring” games
  • However, viewership has stayed fairly consistent, some fixtures breaking multi-year records
  • Week 8 saw the most-watched Sunday Night Football game in seven years, up 22% y-o-y
  • Some, such as pro bettor Bill Krackman, claim no one would watch this season without betting
  • The NFL and betting are now intrinsically linked, and viewers have risen since PASPA repeal
Fans watching NFL
According to many Twitter users, the current NFL season has proven more boring than most, and they have attributed continued viewership to the spread of legal sports betting in the US. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Bored fans

As each week of the NFL season passes in 2022, there seems to be a common theme on Twitter. Many are taking to the social media platform to complain, not about their teams losing, but about the lack of excitement that each week’s games seem to hold.

fans have once again bemoaned the tedious matchups

Monday marked the end of Week 8. While it might have kicked off with the Ravens coming from behind to beat the Bucs in an interesting result, NFL fans have once again bemoaned the tedious matchups. For instance, Chad Withrow, host of sports podcast Outcast 360, took particular aim at the Titans-Texans game:

Withrow’s opinion isn’t an outlier. A quick search of the term ‘boring NFL’ in Twitter generates a long list of fans who are feeling less than enthused with their favorite sport. On Sunday of Week 7, @AllanFishbowl55 questioned whether it was the most tedious season of all time:

While these fans complain, NFL viewership figures have remained relatively solid, in some cases improving year-on-year. As sports betting spreads across the nation, many social media users, industry insiders, and pro bettors have attributed continued viewer interest to the number of Americans with skin in the game.

A look at the numbers

NFL season viewership reached its peak in 2010 with 207.7 million unique viewers, the highest number on record. Games recorded 17.9 million viewers on average that season and remained at a similar level until 2015 when numbers took a steep hit. Viewership averaged 15.7 million for the next five years, dropping to a low of 14.9 million in a pandemic-stricken 2020.

This was the result of various factors, including negative press from multiple sources and an update to the rules which many believed impacted offensive play proving detrimental to excitement levels.

Last year, however, the 2021 NFL season almost returned to those viewing figures seen in 2015, averaging 17.1 million. This marked an increase of 10% from 2021.

As can be expected from an edition that many have deemed insanely boring, that growth has slowed down this season, but it’s one that has still broken records. For instance, Week 1 set a precedent when numbers grew across the board. It saw 121 million viewers for the week, a 5% rise from 2021. Monday Night Football had its most-watched opener since 2000, while NFL on CBS saw record viewership across all platforms:

The trend continues

Although the 2022/23 season seems to be bleeding excitement as it progresses, the trend of broken records has continued throughout – albeit with some networks predictably reporting year-on-year drops for particularly uninteresting games.

Most recently, Week 8’s matchup between the Buffalo Bills and Green Bay Packers saw an average viewership of 21 million, the highest for a Sunday Night Football game in seven years and up 22% from any game in Week 8 last year.

most-watched Week 8 window since that drop off in 2015

In a similarly impressive fashion, Sunday’s NFL national window reported 24.93 million viewers on FOX, the most-watched Week 8 window since that drop off in 2015. Ratings also shot up from 2021 and hit their highest since 2018 at an average of 12.6. Notably, FOX’s doubleheader game viewers are up 10% from last year this season, averaging 23.25 million.

The popular take

So why the continued performance despite fan complaints? Well, pro sports bettor Bill ‘Krackman’ Krackomberger believes that wagering is the most important factor in maintaining NFL viewership at the moment. When the commentator in the Bills-Packers game made a betting-related comment on Sunday night, Krackman took to Twitter to make his thoughts known:

Plenty of other Twitter users shared the same sentiment as Krackman over the weekend. One named @driller_dave claimed that “if there was no gambling on the NFL it would not exist.” Meanwhile, @MLTimes responded to Krackman with his similar thoughts:

In the more extreme category, @cmac211 asserted that he can’t bear to watch the league even if he does have some skin in the game:

Is there a link?

Whatever your opinions on its influence on the game, it’s clear that sports betting and the NFL are now intrinsically linked.

Since the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 2018, live legal sports betting has now spread to 31 states plus Washington DC. Five more states have legalized betting and not yet made it operational, and the potential gold mine of California is on the fringe with a vote soon approaching on two propositions.

the first retail sportsbooks have begun taking bets at stadiums

Not only has betting spread to more than half of the states in country, the league itself has also signed multiple Official Sportsbook Partners including Caesars and WynnBET. Its teams have also joined the party by signing agreements of their own, and the first retail sportsbooks have begun taking bets at stadiums.

Post-2015, NFL viewership faced a crisis due to multiple factors. Despite this, since the legalization of sports betting in 2018, NFL viewership has grown every year apart from the pandemic-influenced 2020/21 season. Undeniably, it hit its highest point last season when sports betting had also reached more states than ever before.

Of course, there are other factors to consider with some experts highlighting the decision to count out-of-home viewers in 2021 and changes to the game that have benefitted offensive play. Whatever the case, if this season continues to turn NFL fans off with boring games, it provides a great indicator of just how important sports betting will be for the league when things don’t go to plan.