NFL Sites Score Traffic Surge

NEW YORK Even before last Thursday’s NFL season kickoff, professional football Web sites were already profiting from fan excitement with increased traffic levels over last month.

Most significantly, average weekly visitation to the NFL Internet Group rose 94 percent in the first three weeks of August versus the previous six weeks, according to comScore Networks. The NFL Internet Group, which includes NFL.com, as well as individual sites for every team in the league, recorded 4.2 million visitors for the three weeks ending Aug. 24, up from 2.2 million for the six weeks ending Aug. 3.

The Dallas Cowboys Web site (www.dallascowboys.com) was the most popular in the league, with more than 300,000 average weekly visitors logging on from Aug. 4-24, likely driven in part by the off-season hiring of coach Bill Parcels. The other top five NFL sites, according to comScore, belonged to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers, Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles.

The NFL Internet Group’s gain in the first three weeks of August appears to have come at the expense of the Web sites of other sports leagues. Traffic to Major League Baseball’s MLB.com and the National Basketball Association’s NBA Internet Group dropped 13 percent to 2.7 million and 36 percent to 1 million, respectively, during the same time, according to the Reston, Va.-based research firm.

Meanwhile, Yahoo! Sports, a popular destination among NFL fantasy league participants, recorded a 9 percent increase in traffic in the first three weeks of August versus the previous six weeks. And as the college football season started, the Official College Sports Network (OCSN.com), host to more than 140 athletic programs, grew by 46 percent in the same period.

Unsurprisingly, men frequent sports Web sites. According to comScore, 42 percent of male Internet users at work visited a sports site in July. Those visitors spent an average of 77 minutes per month at sites in the category.