No one really knows why the NFL ratings have been so bad — first last year, and now through the first two weeks of the current season.
The loudest explanation the league gave last year was “unprecedented interest in the presidential election.” And indeed, ratings did improve a bit after the election ended.
“It’s an encouraging rebound,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told ESPN in December. “I think it proves that the election was certainly a factor.”
But if Goodell was optimistic then, and when ratings for preseason NFL games looked good this summer, he probably isn’t quite as rosy now.
Through the first two weeks of the season, NFL ratings were down 12% and 15% respectively, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The first weekend, many blamed interest in watching hurricane coverage. But for week two there was no easy explanation.
So what’s going on?
In covering the NFL’s ratings woes over the past few years, I’ve run into a bunch of explanations for why TV viewers aren’t tuning in with the same numbers.
Here’s a list of all the excuses I’ve heard thrown around, (some valid, some much less so):
- The election.
- Trump’s antics, generally.
- Cord-cutting, or the fact that people are not subscribing to cable TV in the same numbers.
- Injuries that make teams less compelling.
- The controversy surrounding concussions and CTE.
- Unfavorable matchups.
- Too many commercials (about 70 per game last year).
- Too many penalties.
- Too many game stoppages, generally.
- Too many televised games, which Mark Cuban has been saying for years.
- Cell phones, specifically them making people impatient about ads.
- Players protesting during the national anthem.
- Colin Kaepernick, generally.
- Small sample sizes (could be a fluke).
- The handling of domestic violence cases involving players.
- NFL RedZone.
- Fantasy Football.
- Social media.
- The MLB postseason.
- Not enough scoring.
With the NFL’s TV network partners estimated to earn $US2.5 billion from ad revenue this season, everyone involved has a clear incentive to figure out how to turn the viewership trend around.
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