Okay friends…this will be short and to the point. Are you going to be watching the Super Bowl today between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers? Do you have a team you’re pulling for…or could you give a rat’s rear less about this game one way or the other?
For the heck of it, since I’m in a hurry before the kick-off, I wanted to share this with all of you and see what you think as well. – This is via Forbes:
According to Nielsen, 111.3 million Americans tuned into last year’s Super Bowl, making the broadcast the most-watched program in U.S. history. In fact, you have to drop down to the fourth-ranked show—the last episode of M*A*S*H in 1983—to find a program that wasn’t a National Football League championship game.
So what’s the problem? Growth is slowing fast. Last year’s audience was only 0.3 million larger than that for the second-ranked show, the 2011 Super Bowl. The 2011 game had an audience 4.5 million bigger than the one for the 2010 Super Bowl, third on the all-time list.
And this year, the number of viewers may actually decline. That’s the forecast of Brad Adgate of Horizon Media, writing on the Ad Age website.
Adgate’s stark prediction could be wrong because this year there is an added element of drama to the game. Fans may want to see which of the Harbaugh brothers, the head coaches for the two opposing teams, hoists the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Yet it appears that the Super Bowl’s phenomenal run in viewership growth is just about over, if not this year then probably next.
And that’s why the NFL has its eye on the country with the largest potential television audience, China. Today, seven Chinese television stations will carry Super Bowl XLVII, and it will also be streamed. Last year, 22 million Chinese fans saw the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots in the NFL’s championship game on television. More than a million watched online.
These numbers mean there is room for growth for the NFL in the world’s most populous nation. After all, on September 30 a simply astounding 520 million people watched a local Chinese talent show, “The Voice of China,” to hear Adam Lambert, the American singer.
The NFL is playing catch-up in China to the NBA and even Major League Baseball. Why? As Richard Young, the NFL’s China managing director, notes, the league started late.
Critics say the league in China is not doing much to catch up as it is primarily focused on increasing viewership and selling merchandise. The NFL, however, is actually laying the groundwork to build a Chinese version of itself. At the moment, teams at six Chinese universities are getting ready to participate in the American Football Union. There are ambitious plans to go to 32 teams, the same as the U.S. league.
There are, however, many obstacles to “American football” in China. For one thing, not many Chinese kids play the game. There are 38 universities participating in a flag-football league, but that’s about it.
And the common wisdom suggests that American football will never succeed in China. Many say the Chinese do not have the body type for the U.S. game—true—that they do not like contact sports—untrue—and that nervous parents are concerned about injuries—only partially true. Moreover, it does not help that American football is not an Olympic event. Curling became a big sport in China because the country’s curlers took home a bronze in Vancouver in 2010 after beating the Canadians.
The NFL’s real problem in China, however, is political. There are two main obstacles for what Forbes has called “the richest sports league in the world.” First, the government controls sports tightly. As a result, the sports where China succeeds are those where the state demands success. Most of them are individual ones, and the few successful team sports, like curling, are not major. Beijing has traditionally supported marginal sports because they have permitted the country to build up its medal count at the Olympics and other international competitions.
In the quest for Olympic glory, the country’s political establishment has neglected children who do not have a chance to podium. The result is no state support for the NFL’s efforts to promote football among the masses. “The concept of recreational and community sports still does not really exist, which is why China, for all its gold medals, rarely produces any results in ‘team’ sports,” says Darrell Barnes, director of Sports Beijing, a non-profit promoting competitive sports programs in the Chinese capital.
Second, the corruption pervading Chinese society, the direct result of its unaccountable political system, has plagued team sports in China, especially the non-American version of football. Soccer in China has its origins in pre-revolutionary Shanghai, where players, coaches, and referees all bet on the game, and gambling poisons the sport post-revolution. Corruption has inevitably infected the notion of team sport in China, and American football has no special immunity. The NFL will have to work overtime to escape the taint and keep its sport clean.
And there is one related political ill. The People’s Republic is said to be a low-trust society, largely because the Communist Party has, in various ways, undermined personal bonds from the beginning of its rule—by encouraging everyone to snitch and by using Party and government spies to keep tabs on society. The Chinese are not culturally ill-suited to team sports, as many have said. It is more accurate to say that the country’s corrosive politics have undermined trust, which is the fundamental building block of teams, sporting ones and others.
None of this is to say the NFL cannot succeed in China. Chinese society at the moment is open, and people can’t get enough of things foreign, as the NBA’s success there attests. Moreover, the continuing failure of the country’s favorite national team—Team China has qualified for only one FIFA World Cup, where it humiliated itself by failing to score a goal—leaves the door open for the Chinese people to find a new sport to love.
The country loves to take to the couch to watch sport. In 2002, when the national team had qualified for the World Cup competition, about 300 million Chinese turned on the television to cheer on the national squad. Just imagine how many in China would tune in to watch a Chinese team compete with an American one in a truly Super Bowl.
Throw your two-cents in…this could be interesting in more ways than one, ya never know! – Fire Away…Inquiring Minds Want to Know!