Is the NBA the new NFL? 🏀>🏈

 Doug Pensinger / Getty Images

Doug Pensinger / Getty Images

NFL vs. NBA

TV ratings for the National Football League (NFL) dropped last season, a trend that caused speculation about the league’s future viability, especially in comparison to the National Basketball Association (NBA). The NFL has seen a slight uptick in ratings so far this season and while it remains the most watched American sport, ratings for the National Basketball Association (NBA) continue to gain ground.

Potential causes for the decline

Some believe the primary cause of the decline is the national anthem protests(led by Colin Kaepernick), which has been a decisive issue for fans. Others say the NFL is finally biting the bullet for the lack of player protection and resulting brain damage (or CTE) that has become prevalent as a result. It's probable that both are playing a role, but does the NBA really have a chance at eclipsing the NFL as America’s new sport?


NBA IS ON TOP:

Complex: Why the NBA has surpassed NFL as ‘America’s Sport’

NY Mag: The NBA Now Feels Like the Future and the NFL the Past. But It Wasn’t Destined to Work Out That Way.

Those who believe the NBA has overtaken the NFL focus on the "soft power" that the NBA is gaining culturally in America's eyes. They cite growing NBA TV ratings and in person attendance (a big deal in the digital age). They also make note of the huge influx in media coverage, including events like “opening day parties”. This side praises the decisiveness of NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

NFL IS STILL KING:

LA Times: NFL faces challenging field as new season kicks off, but it’s still TV’s top attraction

News 5 Cleveland: Despite calls for Boycott, NFL-related searches reach all-time high on Google

Those that believe the NFL is still king focus on its strong economic numbers. They focus on the fact that its ratings still beat the NBA and that this year has seen an increase. They also cite large historical trends, such as the fact that TV audience viewership has declined even more on a number of other programs, and that advertisers continue to covet the NFL commercial space.


Who will come out on top?

Both sides agree that the NBA does a great job of reaching its audiences in a technologically versatile way in our digital age. The NFL is trying to replicate this by “growing its mobile audiences”. In addition, while the NBA still has a strong pipeline of talent, the NFL’s player pool has been declining as fewer kids play football due to concussion fears. If this trend keeps up, the NFL could be facing a big problem in the next decade. 

Kidding...but maybe

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