When live sports were shut down back in March, it had an enormous impact on leagues whose seasons were already in progress. Games were postponed for months, and seasons were condensed. Baseball teams, in particular, are playing just 60 regular season contests in 2020, compared to 162 in a normal year. The NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Finals (NHL), which usually take place in May and June, will be held in September and October this year.
However, the most popular pro sports league in the United States, the NFL, was not affected in the same way as its peers. The typical NFL season schedule runs from September through the first weekend of February, so it avoided the same delays. It still had to cancel preseason games (which typically take place in August) and made its annual spring draft a videoconferenced affair. But overall, the league was able to avoid the worst-case effects of moving entire aspects of its schedule.
Now, with games starting, the NFL takes on the hard part: staying on the field and keeping players safe. In the meantime, though, many of the league’s teams (and the NFL itself) showed they were up to the task of keeping interest going throughout a long offseason.
From March 12 (the day games were cancelled for most other leagues) through the end of August, NFL-owned Facebook pages accounted for 1.1 billion video views on 11.7K uploads, according to data from Tubular Labs. You can attribute plenty of those to the league itself and NFL Network, but about 80% came from the teams. The Philadelphia Eagles uploaded 563 Facebook videos in the timeframe, and three more teams–the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns, and Kansas City Chiefs–had at least 400 each. Just three teams uploaded fewer than 200 videos: the New York Giants, Carolina Panthers, and Cincinnati Bengals.
Strictly from a views perspective, no one had more than the Pittsburgh Steelers, with 42.4 million. The Denver Broncos (38.3 million), Chiefs (37.7 million), Green Bay Packers (36.7 million), and Eagles (36.2 million) rounded out the top five. Nearly half the league–15 of 32 teams–had at least 20 million views. Only four teams had fewer than 10 million views.
The NFL had six of the top 10 videos by views, while the Baltimore Ravens (two), Steelers, and NFL Films made up the rest. Looking at the full timeframe, the most popular day for video views was April 25 (29.2 million), the third day of this year’s NFL draft.
Below is the full top 10 list of NFL-owned videos:
- Baltimore Ravens: Hollywood Brown Offseason Workout (5.8 million views)
- NFL: 2002 Pro Bowl QB Challenge – Arm Strength (5.2 million)
- NFL: NFL Game Pass – 2015 Divisional Packers vs. Cardinals (4.7 million)
- NFL Films: 2004 NFL Draft (4.2 million)
- Baltimore Ravens: Lamar Checks on Photographer (3.8 million)
- NFL: NFL Draft-a-Thon LIVE Day 1 (3.5 million)
- NFL: NFL Game Pass – 1981 NFC Championship Game – DAL vs. SF (3.4 million)
- Pittsburgh Steelers: A Message From Coach Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers (2.8 million)
- NFL: 2020 ESPYS – Black Lives Matter (2.7 million)
- NFL: Schedule Release Today! LIVE NOW! (2.7. million)
There was no one path to success when it came to what received the most video views. But classic games, workout videos, and draft live streams seemed to be among the more popular pieces of content. A quarter of the top 20 videos were workout-related, and same goes for classic footage. They had three videos related to this year’s draft, and one that was both classic footage and draft-focused (the 2004 replay from NFL Films above).
To some extent, there was a correlation between which teams generated the most video views and how popular those teams are, since the Steelers (first by views), Broncos (second), Packers (fourth), Eagles (fifth), and San Francisco 49ers (seventh) have some of the largest fan bases in the league. On-field success may have also had something to do with it, too: seven of the top 10 teams by views made the playoffs this past January, including both Super Bowl participants, the Chiefs and 49ers.
With games starting up again, teams will at least have new game footage and highlights to share, which should lead to an increase in views for all teams and the league. During last season (September 5, 2019-February 2, 2020), NFL-owned Facebook pages brought in over 2 billion video views.