No NFL Team For L.A.? No Problem, For TV Or Otherwise

For over a decade, the NFL has had little problem growing -- in revenue, in TV ratings, and in fans’ interest -- despite not having a team based in the second-largest U.S. TV market, Los Angeles.

Los Angeles has been without a team since 1994, when the Rams left for St. Louis and the Raiders returned to Oakland.  

Soon all that could change. Both teams are believed to be returning, perhaps to share one stadium. The San Diego Chargers are also mulling the possibility of returning to Los Angeles.

Back in 1994, many -- especially TV-centric business executives -- wondered what would happen to the NFL. Typically, for any TV series to succeed -- sports, scripted, reality or otherwise -- many believe you need wide viewer representation across the U.S., and especially in the biggest TV markets.

Just behind the No. 1 TV market --  New York, which Nielsen says in September 2015 accounted for 7.4 million TV homes (representing 6.5% of all U.S. TV homes) -- comes Los Angeles, with 5.5 million TV homes, 4.8% of all U.S. TV households.



For the last two decades, the NFL hasn’t suffered from Los Angeles TV viewers not watching football. Far from it. These viewers take in plenty of football, watching teams in other markets.

And, during the last 20 years, the NFL has been commanding higher overall TV advertising revenues, along with sturdy ratings.

Take NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.” It has grown to an average 21.3 million viewers per game in 2014, from 17.5 million in 2006 when it launched. Few if any other TV shows have seen that kind of growth.

For the last three of four seasons, “SNF” has been the number one prime-time TV series among total viewers, and number one for the last four seasons among 18-49 viewers. So successful is that series, the NFL also developed the prime-time “Thursday Night Football” on the CBS/NFL networks.

And the Super Bowl? Viewership of that event continues to climb to new records virtually every year.

All this talks to the power of the NFL, which some believe has to do with its limited supply of games per season -- 16 -- versus other sports. For example, the NBA schedules 82 regular season games per each team; for Major League Baseball, it’s 162 games.

Many TV executives say, for many viewers -- in Los Angeles and otherwise -- the NFL is a more national, TV-oriented sport. It is less local TV-centric than other sports that have many more games and count more on the revenue generation of regular season games versus playoffs.

For many, Los Angeles having an NFL team means essentially the rich getting richer. If not, no big deal.

Next story loading loading..