This graph from Compete.com charts the seasonal ups and downs of traffic to the official websites of the four major American pro sports. Unique visitors in a month is the metric. The overall trend for MLB.com and NFL.com is up, and even in the off-season baseball never dips below three million and the NFL stays above two million. I guess the NBA's audience just isn't as website-driven, perhaps because hoops fans don't obsess about stats and inside information about players in a large organization. Or maybe NBA.com just isn't as useful and entertaining. The NHL's line is just sad, what can I say.
Here's how Compete's analyst reads the data:
Both NFL.com and MLB.com have become the front runners in attracting online enthusiasts. The similarities between the two sites’ visitation trends should come as no surprise as there is a great deal of overlap in the fan base of the two sports. Spring Training begins just as Superbowl memories begin to fade, and football kicks in right around the time the playoff contenders are being decided in baseball. The fans follow the cycles accordingly.
By contrast, the NBA, marred with fights and player disobedience, has experienced a decline in online interest. In 2001 NBA.com’s peak monthly unique visitor count rivaled that of NFL.com and MLB.com. But by 2006, the NBA’s high-water mark was just over 5 million unique visitors — a fraction of the peaks of 8.5 million and 9.2 million people to NFL.com and MLB.com respectively.
Hockey is the clear bottom dweller in the category, reflecting the NHL’s difficulties as of late. As if the sport’s waning popularity in the US wasn’t enough of a disadvantage, the lockout that canceled the 2004/2005 season appears to have solidified the league’s online property’s position in the rear of the pack.