The 2009 NFL preseason kicked off in Canton’s Fawcett Stadium as the Tennessee Titans (playing as the Houston Oilers) defeated the Buffalo Bills, 21-18 on Sunday night. Joining the nearly 22,000 fans in watching the game was a large television audience watching on NBC.
In fact the game was one of the most watched telecasts of the week. Despite being the preseason opener that traditionally does not include a lot of playing time by the seasoned starters, the game’s rating was drastically higher than other sports telecasts in recent months. The game’s ratings were 113% higher than NBA regular season games this past season and nearly double that of the NBA playoffs. The Bills-Titans overnight rating of 4.9 was 157 percent higher than Major League Baseball’s ratings for Saturday games on FOX this season.
These statistics should come as little surprise. For more than four decades, according to The Harris Poll, pro football has remained the most popular sport in the United States. In 1965 the NFL surpassed Major League Baseball in popularity and continued to widen the gap between the two sports. According to the most recent Harris Poll this past January, pro football is the favorite sport of more people (31 percent) than the combined total of the next three professional sports – baseball (16), auto racing (eight) and men’s pro basketball (six).
Professional football has gained in popularity more than any other sport since 1985 with a seven percent increase in popularity over those two decades (from 24 to 31 percent).
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