The NFL rules in Washington, D.C.

I wrote here about the decline in the television ratings of the National Football League so far this season. The decline is relative, though. NFL ratings are still excellent.

The appeal of the NFL’s product was evident yesterday in the Washington, D.C. metro area when the following sports events were competing for viewers: (1) a regular season football game between the Washington Redskins and the Baltimore Ravens and (2) a playoff baseball game between the Washington Nationals and the Los Angeles Dodgers, one that the Nationals desperately needed to win because they were down 0-1 in games in a five game series.

Anyone familiar with the sports hierarchy in the D.C. area would expect even this rather ordinary NFL game to outdraw the baseball playoff contest. But I was surprised to learn of the ratio by which it did. That ratio was more than five football viewers for every one baseball viewer.

Now, the baseball game was played in Washington, whereas Baltimore hosted the Redskins. If we assume that virtually everyone who attended the baseball game would otherwise have watched on TV (a reasonable assumption) and that no fans who would have watched the Redskins on TV trekked up to Baltimore (not so reasonable), we can lower the ratio to about 4:1.

We can perhaps lower it a little more by trying to adjust for the fact that the NFL game was on Fox whereas the baseball game could be seen only by those who went hunting for it on Fox Sports 1. (A friend emailed me wondering where on TV he could find the game).

Still, there is no denying that the NFL game crushed the MLB playoff game here in the D.C. area. And in Texas the NFL did as well or better. The Cowboys-Bengals game had a 31.8 rating. The baseball team’s win-or-go-home game against Toronto had a rating of only 6.5.

Is the D.C. area typical in this regard? Not entirely; nor is football crazy Texas.

Washington was without a baseball team for decades. Major League baseball abandoned the area after the 1971 season and didn’t return until 2005. Thus, the Nationals don’t have as loyal and enraptured a fan base as teams like the St. Louis Cardinals, to cite just one example.

The Redskins fan base is loyal (though disenchanted). However, it’s my understanding that the Redskins TV broadcasts don’t kill it in our market ratings-wise compared to the rest of the NFL. Clearly, though they kill it compared to Nationals baseball.

So I conclude that (1) the NFL rules in the Washington, D.C. and Dallas areas and (2) it probably rules just about everywhere else.


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