NFL Making Massive Play to Draw in Younger Crowds to Boost Ratings: Here’s How

by Halle Ames

As NFL ratings have struggled this year due to the pandemic limiting in-person attendance, the sport is hoping to appeal to a younger audience.

According to Variety, ratings are down as much as 10 percent this season for the NFL. To combat this, NFL producers are finding ways to appeal to younger audiences.

Instead of a “Harry Potter” or “The Hunger Games” marathon, which is what is typically airing on a Sunday afternoon on Freeform, viewers will be watching the big game.

TV stations like Freefrom and Nickelodeon will be trading in the cartoon for football games as they broadcast the NFL Wild Card games.

The playoff between the Baltimore Ravens and the Tennessee Titans will be featured on Freeform. Kickoff is at 12:05 p.m. tomorrow.

Nickelodeon plans to broadcast the Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints Wild Card game at 3:40 p.m. tomorrow.

Sarah Lindman, the senior vice president of content planning and strategy at Freeform, says that airing the NFL game is a test.

“It’s an experiment. We’ve never done it before,” says Lindman in an interview. “Our expectation is that we will be able to deliver additional audience to a traditional football broadcast — a new audience.”

NFL Adds Young Commentators to Attract New Audience

In addition, the networks are trying to attract younger audiences with younger commentators.

Freeform says they “intend to court younger viewers by burnishing lots of conversation rather than play by play, using series stars like Ashley Nicole Williams, Jordan Buhat, Demetria McKinney, Cierra Ramirez, and Trevor Jackson; singer Jordin Sparks; actor and former Titan Eddie George; and actors from Disney projects like Kelly Marie Tran from “The Last Jedi” and “Raya And The Last Dragon.”

Freeform has announced that they will also have a special halftime performance by DJ Khaled.

Nickelodeon says that they plan to have play-by-play commentary and reporting by two cast members from “All That,” a 1994 sketch comedy. The networks also said they would have animated graphics and “intriguing” visuals.

However, Nickelodeon’s halftime show will feature a new SpongeBob SquarePants project and the notorious green slime.

“I think as we look forward, you will see us do more and more of this,” says Hans Schroeder, executive vice president, and chief operating officer of NFL Media, in an interview. “The main broadcast will always be an important part, but we think there are ways to add to it.”

The switch is supposed to make it easier for viewers to find the program. In addition, the NFL wants to have a variety of options. This way viewers don’t “having everyone tune in for the same experience.”