56% of NFL Fans Primarily Stream Games Online

Written By Chris Gerlacher on August 22, 2023
More Than Half of NFL Fans Stream Games Online

According to a PlayOhio survey, 56% of NFL fans watch games through online streaming platforms. Online streaming edged cable TV, which only 50% of respondents use to watch games. The responses suggest that NFL viewers use a combination of methods to access NFL games.

NFL fans also tend to watch one game at a time. Only 20% of respondents flipped between games. Among the remaining respondents, 41% watched one game at a time, and 39% primarily watched one game but checked scores on other games.

PlayOhio NFL Survey Football Streaming Services

Being an NFL fan is a commitment that demands its own infrastructure. The NFL has its own app for streaming games and keeping up with scores. News companies, like CBS, offer live streams of NFL games, too. Rabid NFL fans will seek the most convenient and accessible way to watch the teams they’re most interested in.

Given their opinions about individual teams, it’s unsurprising that many NFL fans focus on one game at a time. When asked which team NFL fans prefer to watch, 17% said the Dallas Cowboys. The next-highest percentage was the Green Bay Packers at 10%. The New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers received 9% each.

Ohio’s teams ranked poorly. Only 11 of the 1,000 respondents preferred Bengals games in the optional open-ended answer, and 13 preferred the Browns.

The Cowboys’ continued popularity is a decades-long marketing case study that began by branding them “America’s team” and continued by milking their success in the ‘90s. The other most-watched teams are also recognizable brands as much as they are high performers.

NFL Viewers Will Cancel Plans, But Won’t Necessarily Bet

NFL fans watch because they love the sport. Sixty-one percent of respondents ranked the NFL as “important” or “very important” to them relative to other types of programming. Only 11% answered “not very important” or “not important at all.”

That’s reflected in the number of people determined to watch every one of their team’s games during the season. When asked what percentage of a team’s games that viewers watched during a given season, 24% of respondents said they watched all of their team’s games, six times more than any other answer to this question.

To catch these games, NFL fans will go so far as to cancel plans or schedule their days around specific games. Thirty-two percent of respondents admitted canceling plans or building their days around specific games. Another 35% said they did so “sometimes.” Only 33% of respondents reported that they didn’t cancel plans or rearrange their schedules.

PlayOhio NFL Survey Hours Watching Football Chart

PlayOhio NFL Survey Most Popular Day Football Chart

NFL fandom is intense across the board, but that intensity doesn’t necessarily translate to sports betting. Forty percent of respondents indicated that they not only do not participate in sports betting, but also have no interest in doing so. Even though Ohio residents have only had access to legal sports betting since January, sports betting participation could remain low among NFL fans even in a mature Ohio sports betting market.

Sports bettors are an important customer segment for the NFL to cater to. Thirty-two percent of respondents answered “yes” to betting on the NFL while watching games. Another 22% answered that they didn’t bet currently but were “considering it for this season.”

PlayOhio NFL Survey Change Channels Sports Bet

However, watching NFL games seems to be primarily a social event rather than an occasion to gamble.

NFL Fans Prefer Live Broadcasts And Good Company

Highlight reels can showcase thrilling moments, but they’re not the main event for NFL viewers. Sixty percent of respondents were more likely to watch live NFL broadcasts rather than recorded highlights alone. Another 35% answered that they were equally likely to watch both live broadcasts and recorded highlights. Only 5% of respondents were more likely to watch recorded highlights alone.

This seems related to the strong preference NFL viewers have overall to watch games with friends and family rather than alone. Sixty percent of respondents preferred to watch games with “family and friends.” Only 12% preferred to “watch games alone.” The remaining 29% answered, “I don’t care, I just love to watch.”

PlayOhio NFL Survey Watching Football Friends Chart

Live games are often social events as much as they are times set aside to watch a favored team compete. Watch parties bring people together and can be enjoyable moments in weeks largely spent working.

Sports betting is a recent addition to the mix of engagement options that NFL viewers have access to. It may augment fans’ interactions with games, but enthusiasm for the NFL remains driven by the sport itself. While some NFL fans are avid sports bettors, gambling is an additional feature rather than the main event.

Overall, football’s social aspect seems the greater draw to viewers than gambling by itself. NFL fans may cancel plans for a highly anticipated game, but few are canceling plans for live betting.


PlayOhio surveyed 1,000 American NFL viewers through Pollfish. Respondents had to answer at least one to two days per week to the question “How often do you watch NFL-related content during the season?” to access the rest of the survey questions. Forty-four percent of the respondents were male, and 56% were female. The age demographics were:

  • 18-24 10.1%
  • 25-34 21.5%
  • 35-44 26.2%
  • 45-54 19.3%
  • >54 22.9%

PlayOhio’s survey has an estimated margin of 3% with a 95% confidence level.

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Chris Gerlacher

Chris Gerlacher is a Lead Writer for Catena Media who covers new sports betting markets as they open, including offering analysis on the budding Ohio betting market.

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