For more than two years, there has been an abundance of doom-and-gloom talk around the National Football League.
NFL primetime TV ratings fell by an average 10% last season; President Trump continues to tweet angrily about the league for its handling of the continued player protests first begun by Colin Kaepernick in August 2016. Kaepernick’s collusion lawsuit against NFL team owners will head to trial after an arbitrator denied the NFL’s attempt to dismiss the suit. It all has some pundits predicting the “end of the NFL.”
But one indication that the NFL remains the biggest draw in American sports can be found on the secondary ticket market.
“The NFL, no question, is the best major league sport we sell,” says Brett Goldberg, CEO of TickPick, one of the fastest-growing secondary ticket sites. NFL tickets typically make up 18% of TickPick’s total sales, and the site expects to sell $25 million worth of NFL tickets this year. (TickPick competes with eBay-owned StubHub by charging buyers zero fees.)
TickPick took a look at year-over-year ticket sales growth on its site for the NFL in the past four months, compared to all other events—sports, concerts, plays, etc.
The resulting chart is quite telling. It shows that NFL ticket purchases on TickPick from April through July of this year, compared to 2017, grew by much more year-over-year than all other sports or live events did. (The exception was in June, when other events outpaced NFL.) So, even in April and May, at the start of a new MLB season, when football is nearly six months away, NFL ticket purchases dominated—and are growing compared to 2017, suggesting fan interest in attending NFL games is getting bigger, not smaller.
“It’s outpacing every other ticket category that we’re selling by about 10 percent,” says Goldberg. “So from our perspective, the NFL has been incredibly strong.”
This is happening at a time when Major League Baseball attendance is at a 15-year-low. Goldberg confirms, “MLB sales growth has been a little bit slower than the others,” though he believes the narrative around baseball’s dire straits has been exaggerated.