Sunday Traffic

November 25, 2010
Posted by Jay Livingston

It’s Thanksgiving, and that means football on television.

The NFL games are probably not something the Pilgrims had in mind, but they have become part of the tradition. I don’t know if turkeys have gotten bigger, but the NFL line-up has expanded from one game to two and now three. The games span eleven hours of TV time, with a short break between the afternoon and evening games (assuming no overtime). No matter when the meal is served, there’s a football game on. So I wonder whether the television is complementing the family-and-food part of the holiday or competing with it. In economists’ terms, are these goods complementary or supplementary?

I did come across some research on one good that does compete with the NFL. The data-heads at looked at the number of visits to their site from various NFL media markets, especially on bye weeks, the one week in the 17-week season that each team gets to rest. What do the fans do on Sunday if the home team isn’t playing? Or maybe I should ask, What don’t they do if the team is playing?

The Tube8 statisticians looked at the numbers of visits they got from NFL cities on three types of Sundays:
  • The average Sunday
  • Sundays during football season
  • Sundays during football season but when the home team had a bye
Here are the results for five cities. (There are 32 NFL teams. I couldn’t put them all on a graph that fit on one screen.)

(Click on the graph for a larger view.)

As the graphs shows, football takes a bite out of Tube8's traffic. What kind of traffic is that, you ask. I should have mentioned that Tube8 is a porn site – so NSFW that I’m not even hyperlinking it. (I check these things out so that you don’t have to.)

On average, an NFL game reduced Tube8's traffic by about 18%. When the home team had a bye, traffic was down, but only by 10%. Some guys will take pigskin over skin no matter who’s playing.*

All NFL cities showed this same pattern. For some teams (New York, Green Bay), the Sunday-to-Sunday differences were barely noticeable. In others (Kansas City, Seattle, San Diego), they were twice the average. (Deadspin has the numbers for all 32 franchises.)

In any case, whatever pleasures you’re indulging in today, Happy Thanksgiving.

*I wouldn’t make too much out the raw numbers on visits or say that one city is more porn-minded than another since I don’t know the size of the area that Tube8 (or their source, Google Analytics) defines as “Seattle” or “Pittsburgh” or wherever.

HT: Victor Matheson at The Sports Economist.

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