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Is F1 Bigger Than The NFL? (The Numbers)

The NFL is the biggest sport in the United States. On the other hand, Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport, with millions of fans around the globe. This leaves many fans of both to wonder which one is bigger, F1 or the NFL?

F1 is bigger than the NFL in terms of total fans. While you might expect F1 to be the far bigger sport due to its global audience, the NFL has high viewership numbers and generates more revenue compared to Formula 1. In terms of total global fans, F1 has 433 million, while the NFL has 410 million.

Formula 1 has a more global audience than the NFL, which owes most of its viewership to those in the US. Below, we take a closer look at both sports to gain a real understanding of why the NFL is bigger than F1, and just what the difference actually is between the two sports.

F1 is more popular than the NFL, as F1 has around 430 million fans around the world while the NFL has 410 million. F1 events also see higher viewership numbers per event, with the average in 2020 being 87.4 million. The NFL sees around 15 million viewers per televised event.

Both of these sports have extremely passionate fanbases. Although they are both different types of sports, they are both at the top level in their respective categories. Formula 1 is a global sport with races taking place all across the world.

We see Grands Prix in Europe, America, and Asia. The NFL is an American sport, and although it is hugely popular in the States, the broadcasting and general reach of the sport is limited outside of US borders. With that said, the NFL does have a big following outside of the US, even if people can’t watch every event.

One of the main ways that Formula 1 has as an advantage is the fact that it is a globally recognized sport. This means that the series travels all across the world to 20+ different countries. Doing so gives the sport an advantage in terms of building a global audience.

On top of that, this traveling championship has the advantage of being in convenient time zones for the majority of the world. On the other hand, the NFL is only in the US, meaning that games are on during the early hours of the morning for the rest of the world. However, there are usually a few games each year in London and Mexico City.

Another advantage that Formula 1 has is that they have drivers and teams that represent different nations. Having a driver from a specific country can create a whole new fanbase, as we have seen with Max Verstappen and his Dutch fans. There are around 1,700 NFL players in total in a given season, but only around 70 of the current players either weren’t born in the US or hold a non-US nationality.

The NFL has always been a staple of the US sports scene. It’s hard to imagine the United States without Monday Night Football or the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl is an annual event that is watched by millions of people, and not just in the US either. Viewers tune in from all across the world to watch the Super Bowl.

The NFL also has a huge pop culture following, and it’s even more romanticized by the College Football aspect and high school sports. We see it in movies, TV shows, and documentaries, and it’s difficult to imagine a world where American Football doesn’t exist.

F1 vs NFL Popularity – Viewers Per Event

One of the ways that we can compare the popularity of Formula 1 to that of the NFL is to compare the viewership numbers between the two. This will give us an idea of how many people watch each sport.

However, it’s still not really an accurate representation, with Formula 1 being globally popular and the NFL being more popular in the United States. Things like time zones and, as we discussed earlier, a lack of real non-US participation do not work in the NFL’s favor.

It should be noted that there are Formula 1 races in the United States, which will allow us to compare the two sports in the same market more directly. However, Formula 1 has not always been popular in the US, and 2021 saw its highest viewership number with just under 1 million American viewers for the race at COTA.

Although this is an increase in US viewers, it’s still a long way away from the numbers that NFL games get during the season. Plus, if the two events were on at the same time, most Americans would likely be switching over to the NFL rather than Formula 1.

F1 Viewing Numbers

F1 had a total global viewership of 1.9 billion during the 2019 season. This is an incredible number of viewers, with around 86 million people tuning in per event.

The events with the highest viewership ratings were the races at Monza, Monaco, the Nürburgring GP track in Germany and Interlagos in Brazil, which all had over 100 million viewers worldwide. The popularity of the sport is expected to grow even further, with more events being added to the F1 calendar too.

NFL Viewing Numbers

The NFL averages around 15 million viewers per event during the regular season, which is a long way down from Formula 1. Even if you discount the most viewed events – over 100 million viewers per race for those mentioned above – the average viewership for Formula 1 is still higher per event.

The Super Bowl is usually the biggest event in the United States, and one of the biggest sporting events in the world. The 2021 Super Bowl had a total viewership of 96 million people, just shy of Formula 1’s four most viewed races in 2021 that were over 100 million.

One of the biggest attractions of the Super Bowl is that it’s the event that decides the season’s winner. However, the half-time show is also packed with tons of entertainment, and that is another attraction for many people around the world.

Why Such A Big Difference?

There’s a big difference between F1 races and NFL games, and this is reflected in their viewership numbers. But there are some important factors that we need to consider before we jump to any conclusions in terms of which of these two sports is really the most popular.

The first is that NFL events consist of two teams playing against one another, so if your team isn’t playing, you likely won’t be watching. Formula 1 on the other hand has all the teams and drivers competing at the same time, meaning fans watch the race no matter who they support.

The NFL also has more than 250 games during the regular season. After that there’s also the playoffs and the Super Bowl. So, if we take the 17 million average viewership per event (in 2019) and multiply that average with the 256 games in the regular season (assuming all are televised somewhere) we get a total of 4.3 billion viewers, a lot more than Formula 1’s 1.9 billion in 2019.

The 2019 F1 season on the other hand only had 21 races. This means that, while the total viewership across the season was lower in F1, it still had more than 90 million people tune in to each race. So, on a per event basis, F1 is more popular than the NFL. On a per season basis, the NFL is more popular than F1.

How Much Money Does F1 Generate Per Event?

F1 generates between $100 million and $140 million per event. In the end it works out to around $1.8 billion dollars per year for the entire season. This is a huge amount of money to generate for one sport, and this money comes from sponsorships and merchandise sales, among other things.

Formula 1 is one of the highest earning sports in the world. With millions of viewers from all around the globe, the sport generates millions from broadcasting rights alone, let alone sponsorship deals and ticket sales at the events.

That money is mostly reinvested into the sport, with the majority of the funds being used as the prize fund for the teams. It’s widely thought that Formula 1’s revenue has been growing each year, and with the drama and excitement we had in the 2021 season, it wouldn’t be that surprising if the sport surpassed $2 billion in revenue for 2021.

How Much Money Does The NFL Generate Per Event?

The NFL varies hugely in the amount of money that it generates per event. The average revenue per team is $7 million in each NFL game. On average each team will play 16 games during the regular season, which means that their average revenue per season could be around $112 million.

This is in a similar ballpark as Formula 1, however Formula 1’s $100 million is generated in one event compared to an entire NFL season for one team. The Super Bowl on the other hand is a massive event, one of the biggest in the world, and it brings in hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

The record for the highest revenue from a Super Bowl game was the 2020 Super Bowl which raked in $449 million. This is the equivalent of four average Formula 1 races. It’s estimated that the NFL generates $8.7 billion per season in total revenue, which is much more than F1. But this makes sense, given there are more teams and more events per season.

Final Thoughts

F1 is bigger than the NFL in terms of the total number of fans worldwide, but in terms of annual viewership, the NFL is more popular, and it brings in more total revenue. This is largely down to the fact there are more than 10 times the number of NFL games per season as there are F1 races.