The NFL is blaming its horrible TV ratings on the election, according to a leaked memo to team owners obtained by the Wall Street Journal.
The NFL wrote that the drop in primetime was likely because of “unprecedented interest in the Presidential election.” The letter went on to reference the 2000 election as another period of time when NFL ratings went down.
The NFL is not the only one to make the connection. In an interview with Sports Business Daily, Mike Mulvihill, a senior VP at Fox Sports, said the current season reminded him of fall of 2000, a year which included the race between Al Gore and George W. Bush. 2000 was the only year during the decade 2000-2010 where the NFL saw a downtick overall, Sports Illustrated notes.
One thing the NFL said was not affecting ratings was fan backlash against players protesting police brutality by not standing during the national anthem. “In fact, our own data shows that the perception of the NFL and its players is actually up in 2016,” the NFL wrote.
There are a few other theories on what might be affecting ratings this year, however, that have nothing to do with Donald Trump.
In a meeting with analysts at Pacific Crest, CBS, one of the NFL’s TV partners, cited three reasons:
- Small sample sizes (there haven’t been enough games yet)
- Unfavorable matchups (for instance, NBC’s last “Sunday Night Football” had a Steelers-Chiefs matchup that was down 26% from last year, but last year’s game was Saints-Cowboys, and the Cowboys are the NFL’s biggest TV draw)
Lastly, there is a far more troubling explanation: people are losing gradually losing interest in live sports, and big TV “spectacles” in general.
NBC had a disastrous TV showing at the Olympics, which saw a sharp viewership dip for the first time since 2000. NBC’s Olympics primetime broadcast was down 15% versus 2012. The damage was even greater among younger people. Among 18- to 49-year-olds, there was a 25% drop for the bulk of the games, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.