Is College Football Gaining or Losing Popularity vs. the NFL?

Joe Burrow played for LSU in college and plays for Cincinnati in the NFL

If you’re on this site, you’re definitely a big college football fan. Odds are, you like college football more than you like the NFL. But, do you match the rest of the country?

The short answer is no, the NFL is holding its popularity better than college football. Over 5 years, Super Bowl viewership declined -19% while college football championship viewing declined -24%. Of course, the numbers don’t tell the full story.

One things certain, and that’s that NFL has a firm hold on the number one sport in the country. 165 million unique people viewed NFL games last season. College football land at somewhere between half and one quarter of that depending on what metric you use.

However, many points indicate that CFB is experiencing incremental growth. TV ratings grew following the introduction of the playoff before falling during the COVID era (note, NFL ratings fell during this time too). Merchandise sales, though not always the most correlated, point in this direction too; following Georgia’s National Championship, Fanatics saw record sales for college licensed merchandise.

Due to the COVID years weighing down all live sports ratings and lots of moving parts in realignment and TV deals right now, it’s likely the next few years will provide a much more definitive answer on how college football popularity is changing compared to the NFL. Hopefully, intriguing matchups and an unbeatable culture help make this the biggest sport in the country.