SPORTS

Fantasy Football Boosts NFL Ratings

Every week, some 29 million Americans are believed to be checking up on their fantasy football teams, setting lineups, making trades, and browsing statistics. Naturally, it also tends to mean watching a fair bit of football. And that may be the reason the NFL seems headed to a record year for ratings, since fantasy sports means caring about players beyond those on your favorite team. Twenty-six games this season have drawn more than 20 million viewers, a number achieved by only nine non-football shows—and seven of them were episodes of Dancing With the Stars. Fifteen of those 26 games have actually soared above 25 million viewers, marking an improvement over the 2009 season when only nine games cleared that mark. "The NFL realizes that fantasy football is growing the popularity of the sport," said one fantasy analyst.