American football scores big as number of UK fans nearly doubles in four years

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American football scores big as number of UK fans nearly doubles in four years

  • Research commissioned by ESPN finds 75% increase in fans interested in American football
  • ESPN sees record numbers consume its NFL content in the UK as sport gains in popularity

ESPN has released new figures showing a rapid rise in the popularity of American football in the UK. The numbers reveal that 16% of UK sports fans now follow the NFL, up from 9% in 2011 – a growth of 75%. The insight comes from bi-annual research conducted on behalf of ESPN by Netfluential, which questions more than 1,000 sports fans on their media habits and consumption.

The increasing interest in American football has also been reflected in significant growth on ESPN’s digital platforms, which provide comprehensive market-leading news, scores and analysis of the NFL and NCAA College Football. Sunday 15th November 2015 saw ESPN.com achieve its biggest daily page view total on record in the UK with a +140% increase compared to the daily average over the last 12 month period.

These new followers of American football are proving to be highly engaged and committed to the sport throughout the season, with total minutes spent consuming NFL content on ESPN in the UK up 65% year on year, ahead of the 55% increase in unique visitors. Total time spent on ESPN’s Fantasy Football game has seen even bigger increases of 85% year on year.

The data gathered also offers an insight into the preferences and behaviours of British fans of American football. They are more likely to consider themselves “super sports fans” (i.e. rate themselves 9 or more out of 10 for sports fandom) – 54% compared to 42% of all sports fans. NFL fans are also more likely to use their smartphone while watching sport – 91% compared to 82% of total sports fans.

Charles Classen, Vice President and General Manager, ESPN EMEA, said “ESPN’s research and traffic figures clearly show a boom in popularity for the NFL, both in the number of fans, but also in how passionately they follow American football. The most dramatic reflection of this being on mobile and tablets where time spent has increased fourfold in just a year. ESPN is perfectly placed to serve those new fans with market leading coverage, and we look forward to welcoming more and more fans to our site as the league’s international expansion continues.”

The rise in interest in American football comes on the back of the NFL announcing its 2016 International Series games, with the Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cincinnati Bengals, Washington Redskins, St. Louis Rams and one other team all coming to London next year.

ESPN has also increased its American football content offering in the UK in 2015 with the introduction of the 24-hour live SEC Network and ESPN U channels on its ESPN Player Service, joining hundreds of other games and giving fans in the UK access to more college football than ever before.

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