The staff of Fortune recently assembled its predictions for 2017. Here’s one of our forecasts.
It's no secret that NFL game viewership is down this season. Part of the blame likely lies with the year’s non-stop election coverage, but even once the dust of a tumultuous campaign season settles, the NFL may still find itself falling behind.
More systemic challenges to the league include its recent PR nightmares, including concussion concerns and domestic violence accusations against players. Then there are the fans complaints about too many commercial interruptions, which make the game less exciting to watch. And that’s not to mention the sheer-saturation of the sport. What used to be mainly a Sunday affair from noon until around 11 p.m. has now expanded to include Monday and Thursday night games—as well as games played in London that begin at 9:30 am on Sunday.
To be sure, the Super Bowl continues to be the most watched event of the year. According to Nielsen, over 110 million people and 46.6% of U.S. households that own a television tuned in to watch Super Bowl 50 between the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos. Around 34 million people watched this year’s Oscars and 84 million people watched the first presidential debate. Fortune’s Prediction: this year's Super Bowl, will be watched by around 110 million people, or slightly less than the number of people that watched Super Bowl 50.
We’re also betting that it will be a showdown between the Cowboys and the Patriots.
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Both teams started out the season without their starting quarterbacks. The Patriots' Tom Brady was suspended for four games thanks to Deflategate and the Cowboys' Tony Romo has sat out the season thus far because of a broken back. Both teams have been playing as if they had their starting quarterbacks, though, reassuring fans that both will continue to lead power rankings through the rest of the season.
This would be the first Super Bowl matchup between the teams, but the eighth Super Bowl appearance for both the Cowboys and Patriots. Right now, they're tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos for most Super Bowl appearances. The Cowboys have won five Super Bowls (ranking second behind the Steelers' six wins), and the Patriots have won four.
Also impressive: both the Cowboys and Patriots have had back-to-back Super Bowl wins. It would be a true NFL powerhouse match-up if our prediction comes true, but we'll have to wait until the January 22 Conference Championships are over to see if we're right.