NFL Ratings Are Sinking, But Will This Change Anything? [VIDEO]

NFL Ratings Are Sinking, But Will This Change Anything? [VIDEO]

NFL Ratings Are Sinking, But Will This Change Anything? [VIDEO]

The current trends are not looking good for the NFL. The league is used to commanding huge prices for its commercial time, because it was a guarantee that people would see the ads. Just think of how much Super Bowl ads are promoted and cost.

But after setting records last season, viewership is crashing this season.

Roger Goodell, are you paying attention???
Roger Goodell, are you paying attention???

While the number of streaming viewers has increased – last night’s game attracted 262,000 average minute viewers on digital platforms, a 23% increase from last year – total viewership is still trending downward. Last week’s Monday Night Football game unsurprisingly got clobbered in the ratings thanks to the presidential debate. That game drew a 5.7 overnight rating, the lowest in MNF history.

So, what is going on here? I have a few theories.

1) Time investment
Baseball is trying to figure out how to speed up the game to keep people engaged. Football is suffering from the same fatigue. Just because people are already used to instant replays in football, doesn’t mean it doesn’t stop the game to review the play. Between timeouts, halftime, instant replays, and clocks being stopped, a football game is easily a three-hour commitment. A highlight reel? Maybe 15 minutes. The digital platform is allowing people to do other things during those three hours, and then check in when they want to see the score. And more and more people are abandoning traditional cable packages in favor of online streaming services. When that happens, you probably have more people gathering around one TV, cutting the numbers down.

2) Competition
Who knew that a presidential debate would be a bigger draw than Monday Night Football? It happened.

The Week 3 Falcons/Saints Monday Night Football game earned a 5.7 overnight rating, down 36% from Chiefs/Packers last year (8.9), down 38% from Bears/Jets in 2014 (9.2) and the lowest for any NFL telecast through the first three weeks of the season. Ratings peaked at a 6.9 from 8:45-9 PM ET, the final quarter-hour before the debate started.

The 5.7 is likely the lowest in the history of Monday Night Football. Complete overnight records were unavailable, but the lowest final rating in franchise history is a 5.1. No other MNF telecast has gone lower than 5.7 in the final nationals.

Coverage aired opposite the first presidential debate, which had a combined 46.2 rating across nine broadcast and cable networks. The last time MNF faced a presidential debate, Week 7 in 2012, Lions/Bears scored a 7.3 overnight. That game faced both a presidential debate and Game 7 of the MLB National League Championship Series.

Now yes, the debates get a bigger platform across more channels for a single event. It still hurts the NFL’s bottom line when the eyes aren’t watching them.

3) Social Justice Fatigue
There is no way to quantify just how much the entire National Anthem debate has cut down on viewership. But the numbers are down this season after record numbers last season. You make the call whether it is a coincidence or not. But the bottom line is, people use sports to escape from real life. We want to cheer for our team and not think about what is going on in the “real” world while our champs go at it on the field of play. When there is a constant bombardment of social justice lectures from players and commentators, is that going to help the escape factor or hurt it?

Even one of these theories is going to affect the NFL’s viewership. A combination of all three is more likely, and more dangerous. Roger Goodell and the league are going to have to decide what is more important to them – attracting and keeping fans, or continuing on with the way things are.

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  • I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I went cold turkey on the NFL because of the growing “free speech” demonstrations on the sidelines. Seeing as how most of it is based on lies, having multimillionaires complain about inequality is as appealing as having the counter person at McDonalds yelling “meat is murder” while taking my order. Both make me lose my appetite.
    It’s not a question of free speech, but of an inappropriate venue.
    If I was watching Shakespeare and Hamlet turned to the audience to tell us of a really good used car deal in town, we have the right to ask for our money back and the director has the right to fire him.

    If the NFL can’t impress upon their employees that the product they are selling is the game of football and the entertainment of the fans, not alienating them with their personal causes and crusades, then they will lose and perhaps never regain those fans.

    • Jodi says:

      Very well said, and my exact thoughts, Mike. I’m also a cold turky-er and I’m not returning until the America-bashing stops. Which is looking like never.

  • Robin H says:

    The pink everything in October can’t be helping ratings either.

  • J walter says:

    Yes! You’d think a sport played by men and historically viewed by mostly men, might focus on men’s health issues. The men suicide rate, prostate cancer, testicular cancer monthly checks, etc. Nope pink, breast cancer ( yes it’s bad). Haven’t watched a game in years. Don’t miss it. It is probably rigged anyway.

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