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Is there any end in sight to football’s growing ratings?

America is a football nation.  Bullying, concussions, off-field trouble, arrests, and whatever negative stories that have surrounded the game this year have done nothing to lessen the obsession we have with pro and college football.  The NFL is the unquestioned #1 sport in this country.  With huge BCS ratings and hundreds of stadiums filled around the country every Saturday, the argument can well be made that college football is #2.

In a time where everyone on television is throwing whatever they can at the fourth wall to see if anything sticks and gain consistent viewership, football continues to grow and grow with seemingly no end in sight until every single person in America is attached to their television via a strong magnetic field whenever a football game is on.  Or Roger Goodell finally turns America into his own personal police state.

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Football is the unquestioned lord and master of television.  And in an age where high ratings are much more difficult to achieve in the world of Netflix, YouTube, DVR, and 800 cable and satellite channels, college and pro football still haven't reached their peak.

After slight declines last year, the NFL is up a significant amount this season, with viewership up nearly 5% across all networks this season.  The key ratings drivers are of course the top primetime show on television, Sunday Night Football, but also the late Sunday afternoon window on CBS and Fox which is pulling in astronomical numbers.  In fact, the America's Game of the Week window that Fox and CBS share (don't let Fox's silly public relations strategy fool you there) are beating Sunday Night Football in total viewership…

To put that in perspective, only one sporting event has reached 24 million viewers this year.  And of course, it was the BCS National Championship Game.

Don't let pro football take all the glory and hog all the headlines for rising ratings this year.  College football is doing their part too.  So far this season, ESPN's college football ratings are up across all their networks.  Saturday Night Football on ABC is up 18% in viewership over last year and all their other channels are up at least a minimum of 4% from 2012.

The ABC Saturday Night Football series is posting double-digit audience growth over last year at the same point, averaging 6,356,000 viewers and a 3.8 rating for increases of 18 percent (vs. 5,405,000) and 15 percent (vs. 3.3) over 2012.

Through week 10, college football game telecasts are generating larger audiences across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU in the 2013 season than the same point in 2012:

ABC is averaging 4,858,000 viewers for a 10 percent increase (vs. 4,399,000).

ESPN is averaging 2,702,000 viewers for a 4 percent increase (vs. 2,607,000).

ESPN2 is averaging 1,209,000 viewers for a 7 percent increase (vs. 1,128,000).

ESPNU is averaging 442,000 viewers for a 4 percent increase (vs. 424,000).  

It's truly astounding to see both the NFL and college football continue to hurtle forward as a television product into a universe that nothing else on television, outside of perhaps The Walking Dead, could even dream of inhabiting on a weekly basis.  Nothing can touch the NFL and college football is now stronger than ever.  Is there an end in sight?  Who knows where football will be in 20 years with the evolution of the sport and just how seriously the American public takes some of the issues that have raised questions over the sport in a generation's time.  But for now, it appears that football hasn't yet reached its peak and incredibly, there's still even more room to grow in popularity.

Matt Yoder

About Matt Yoder

Managing Editor of Awful Announcing and award winning sportswriter. Bloguin consigliere. The biggest cat in the whole wide world.

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