Labor Day serves as the unofficial end to summer, yet for many sports fans, the true sign of fall is the return of the football season. College football served as the primer over Labor Day weekend while the NFL officially kicks off September 7. As the season begins anew, the latest CivicScience tracking data find the percentage of U.S. adults who report they follow the NFL ‘very closely’ has ticked up two percentage points to 17% since 2022. Overall, 58% say they follow the NFL at least ‘a little.’ 

Here are three key insights as the NFL gears up to launch the new season:

Close to one-fourth of NFL fans say streaming is their primary method of watching games this year.

More than half of NFL viewers (54%) say they primarily plan on tuning in via traditional cable TV broadcast. Cord-cutters are a prominent force among NFL fans as one-quarter (23%) plan to opt for a streaming service to watch their favorite team this year. Ten percent plan to watch games at a bar or with others elsewhere.

Just 3% say they’re planning on watching primarily in person at the games. When asked whether they were more or less likely to attend an NFL game this year compared to past years, 40% said it’s less likely compared to 10% who are more likely (n=13,056). Inflation, rising gas prices, and the return of student loan payments certainly don’t help matters, with the average ticket price for NFL games at around $151.

NFL Sunday Ticket could be a game-changer for YouTube TV.

One of the major developments ahead of the new season is YouTube’s acquisition of NFL Sunday Ticket, which previously belonged to DirecTV. Consumers have the option to either purchase the package via a YouTube TV add-on or by subscribing through YouTube itself. Payment plans and student discounts are also being offered as well, potentially easing the burden for cost-conscious consumers amid subscription fatigue.

CivicScience polling shows 22% of NFL viewers feel at least ‘somewhat likely’ to purchase an NFL Sunday Ticket package, with 8% reporting as ‘very likely’ to do so. The new offering shows some decent potential for add-ons among current YouTube TV subscribers as 43% say it’s at least ‘somewhat likely’ they will be adding the Sunday Ticket to their subscription. 

YouTube TV intenders also have some extra motivation to sign up – 24% have at least some level of interest in the Sunday Ticket package. Thirteen percent of those who aren’t subscribed at all are also eyeing the package. 

The new package is also likely to draw interest from YouTube’s streaming competitors ESPN+ and Fubo TV. Forty-seven percent of ESPN+ subscribers have some level of interest in the Sunday Ticket – a percentage that jumps to 58% among Fubo TV subscribers.  

Are NFL fans punting on Fantasy Football this year?

The waning days of the NFL preseason lend themselves to a flurry of last-minute fantasy football drafts, as you may be aware if you follow any football fans on social media. But just how prevalent are fantasy football players this year? 

Data show overall, fantasy football has been trending downward over the past few years – 17% plan to play some version of fantasy football this year, compared to 22% in 2021. The drop comes with those who say they’re both playing daily fantasy games and are part of season-long leagues, which has fallen four percentage points. Those who just play daily ticket down by a point as well.

Interested to learn more insights about sports fans as the season begins to kick into high gear? Get in touch and see how CivicScience tracking can keep you ahead of the game.