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Tuesday, February 12
NFL All-Star Game sees drop in viewership

By Darren Rovell

Ratings for the Pro Bowl, declined again this year -- as only 4.2 percent of U.S. households watched the game on Saturday afternoon on ABC, according to Nielsen Media Research.

It was the second straight year that the Pro Bowl faced some major competition with its game. Pushed back a week because of Sept. 11, the game was going head-to-head this year with Olympics coverage on ABC. Last year, the game was matched up against the debut of the XFL.

"There are so many other appealing programs out there, the All-Star games aren't special anymore," said Tom DeCabia, executive vice president of Advanswers PHD, a media buying firm that has purchased television time in sports programming.

Pro Bowl TV Ratings
Year % Households
1996 10.9
1997 9.1
1998 7.9
1999 7.9
2000 8.6
2001 4.7

Television viewership of all-star games has steadily declined in recent years. The Pro Bowl ratings have fallen for five out of the last seven years now. The 1996 NBA All-Star game drew 11.7 percent of U.S. households, which steadily declined to 5.1 percent by the 2001 game. But ratings rebounded for Sundayís game on NBC, which received an 8.2 Nielsen rating, its highest number since 1998. From 1996 through 2000, baseballís Midsummer classic declined from a 13.2 rating to 10.1 rating, before also rebounding to an 11.1 rating for the game played this past July.

Despite the apparent lack of interest by TV viewers, there's no denying that the Pro Bowl is a significant money generator for the league. The NFL is the only league that sells its game to the host -- the Hawaii Tourism Authority extended its relationship with the league, agreeing in September 2000 to pay $19.5 million for the rights to the Pro Bowl from 2002 through 2005.

In Hawaii, where no games take place during the regular season, the league legitimately sells out 50,000 seats every year to the game thanks to 15,000 to 20,000 visitors from the mainland.

Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for, can be reached at

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