Jerry Jones thinks NFL television ratings will go up '50%'

Year in and year out, NFL games are among the top-rated programs on broadcast television. One NFL owner thinks the ratings can go even higher due to sports gambling, and that could be big money for the league and its sponsors.

Despite seeing a slight drop in the ratings two years ago, the NFL remains a juggernaut that dominates the ratings. Last year, NFL games bounced back from their dip and were up five percent with an average of 15.8 million viewers. Three of the four most-watched series last year were NFL content, only bested by HBO’s finale for "Game of Thrones."

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones thinks these ratings can go even higher. Calling the television numbers “the best I’ve ever seen,” the outspoken Jones sees the rise of legalized sports betting as a sure bet for the NFL to see ratings climb more.

“The viewership is where our numbers will increase. People will stay longer. That value is how our sport will benefit from gaming,” Jones told Yahoo! Finance on Thursday. “I dare say that gaming will increase the value of television, of presenting our games, I dare say it will go up 50 percent because of the gaming concentration.”

The logic certainly makes sense, but Jones’ estimates might be a bit too optimistic.

Growth of viewership by 50 percent would be astronomical, far eclipsing any other live programming on television. Former president of CBS Sports and current media consultant Neil Pilson thinks there is room for the NFL’s ratings to grow but disagrees with where Jones thinks those numbers will end up.

“I think we all agree that gambling will help interest in NFL football and quite probably the television ratings,” Pilson told FOX Business. “But Jerry’s estimate of a 50 percent increase in ratings is all Jerry Jones. I think there will be an increase but I don’t think it will be anywhere near the proportions that Jerry is suggesting. But again, that’s Jerry.”

Ratings for the NFL's 100th season opener --- Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears --- were up 14% from last year, when the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles played.

The hope, though, is that legalized sports gambling and gaming will be a hook for more fans to consume live NFL content.

The hook of a wager on a game will get fans to tune in more often and through the end of the game. With so many prop bets that go beyond the winner and the loser and delve into the minutiae of individual performances, the theory is that more fans will flock to their television sets to watch the outcome.

Individual player performances are a driving force now, replacing point spreads and winners/losers for many viewers.


As Jones alludes to, the growing hook for the consumption of NFL games is increasingly becoming less about fandom and outcome. Wagering has always been a draw for watching professional sports and the growing fantasy football market has drawn in a larger and more diverse viewership in recent years.

There is certainly something to the argument that viewership is being driven by factors outside of rooting interests. Attendance for NFL games was down last year to its lowest average since 2011. This might be from the interest of fans to consume multiple games at the same time rather than be stuck in the stadium.

It has often been argued that football is a sport best consumed on television and not live within the context of a stadium. With legalized sports gaming and fantasy football both seeing meteoric growth, it appears that these trends will only continue.