The Rise of Redzone: A New Way to Consume the NFL

“7 hours of commercial-free football… starts now!” Scott Hanson’s voice booms through homes

across the U.S. at 1:00 PM EST sharp, just as the first set of Sunday games are kicking off in

the National Football League.

NFL Redzone is a new way to watch football on Sundays. It provides commercial-free, whip-

around coverage of the NFL. Its proudest claim is that it plays “every touchdown from every

game.” It is one of the ways the NFL is combating the constant viewership decline it has

experienced over the past decade. While you can attribute a steep drop-off in the past two

years to controversy surrounding the national anthem, the NFL has experienced a significant

decline in ratings dating back to 2013, especially among age groups younger than 50 years old.

NFL Redzone got its start it 2009. While the NFL does not release ratings for Redzone, its

growth in popularity in the past few years has been undeniable. It has turned its host Scott

Hanson into something of a celebrity, garnering him a hefty 250,000 Twitter followers.

Why not just watch a regular game? Only on Redzone can you find a commercial-free format,

the double, quadruple, and #octobox to watch multiple games at once, and their weekly

conclusion, the “touchdown montage.” Not to mention, the NFL markets Redzone to a specific

group. According to the NFL website, “NFL RedZone is the perfect fantasy companion, allowing

fans to improve their fantasy roster.” This group is anything but niche.

In 2003, there were an estimated 15.2 million fantasy sports players in the United States in

Canada (FSTA). By 2008, that number nearly doubled: 29.9 million. Last year, that number

reached 59.3 million. Fantasy sports, especially fantasy football, is a hobby that attracts a

whopping 21% of the U.S. population. This cultural phenomenon is changing the way sports

fans interact with the game they love. In the case of the NFL, fantasy football is just becoming a

part of the game.

In fantasy football, the outcomes of individual games hold no value. All that matters are

individual player performances, so it makes sense that Redzone’s “every touchdown” approach

is attractive to fantasy football participants.

While fantasy football players make up much of Redzone’s viewership, there is yet another

reason that Redzone has become so popular. It appeals to a younger demographic. The

commercial-free aspect of Redzone is simply an extension of the Netflix era. People will pay

extra for their content to be ad-free, as proven by streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu. The

same holds for football. Why not pay a few dollars a month for constant gameplay, as opposed

to sitting through TV timeouts and halftime-breaks?

Not only that, Redzone provides football for the short attention span. Studies have disagreed

over whether younger demographics truly have shorter attention spans, but the idea still holds

true. Social media is becoming a preferred news source. People would rather binge watch The

Office’s 20-minute episodes than sit through an equal-length movie. Fans are finding it more

difficult to sit through entire football games. Redzone, which flips between games on average

every 68 seconds, is much more appealing for the younger NFL fan.

If the NFL wants to continue to sit in their throne as the most popular sport in the U.S., it must

continue to pay attention to the needs of their young demographics, and it should adjust their

content accordingly. NFL Redzone is certainly a step in the right direction.

Gabe Wineman

USBC Journal Writer

Class of 2022