The Decline of NFL TV Ratings

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The Decline of NFL TV Ratings

By Eric Myskowski, Assistant Reporter

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The decline of TV ratings for the NFL is continuing this year. Last week’s ratings are down eight percent from the 2016 season and eighteen percent from 2015. According to ESPN, the number of viewers is at 15.156 million viewers in 2017 down from 18.438 million in 2015. This continuing trend is starting to worry the league because a huge portion of their revenue comes from television advertisements. It is due to a variety of factors that include other media sources, concussions, kneeling for the national anthem, bad matchups and even things like shorter attention spans and fantasy football.

People are watching football in many other places than television, driving down the ratings. Instead of watching the games on cable and buying Direct TV’s Sunday Ticket, where a person can watch any game, any week, they are going elsewhere. For example, people are streaming it in many places like Twitter. They are also going elsewhere online. Monday night football for example, which is on ESPN, can also be streamed on Stations like FOX and CBS, which show regional games on cable, also stream their games online or through their app on almost any mobile device. There are also many sites where a person can watch it illegally streamed. Unlike the rest of the reasons for the ratings declines, this aspect does not mean NFL popularity is declining, but it is just being watched elsewhere.

Injuries and Concussions are another big reason why the ratings are declining. Repeated hits and concussions are known to lead to CTE, a brain disease. In a study, over 99 percent of former NFL players had symptoms of it in a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. According to Forbes, membership in Pop Warner and even in programs through High School are down eighteen percent from its peak for this reason. This is helping to lessen its popularity among the younger generations.

The kneeling for the National Anthem is another reason for the decline of NFL viewership. In the past couple years, a number of NFL players are kneeling for the national anthem in an attempt to protest police brutality. This has annoyed a large number of people for several reasons. The first is that the kneeling was the first news topic of almost any broadcast at the beginning of the season, sports or not. This was in many cases the only news about the NFL. The constant publicity has turned many people off. Also, this act is arguably unpatriotic and disrespectful. Many of the people are kneeling because they want to fix issues but give no money to organizations that do this and get paid millions of dollars a year, on top of the some who are in legal trouble themselves. My neighbor for example, is no longer watching the NFL because of this issue.

There is furthermore other negative publicity affecting the NFL ratings. Ezekiel Elliot, the Dallas Cowboy’s star running back, has just had his six game suspension upheld by the appeals court for many violent altercations with women that include pulling down the shirt of a young women during a Saint Patrick’s Day parade. In total this year, 33 NFL players have been arrested, many with domestic violence charges, according to data obtained by the USA Today. President Trump has also given the NFL negative publicity. In a series of tweets and interviews, he has condemned the NFL for letting the players kneel during the national anthem saying in one tweet saying “Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country?”

Bad matchups and lackluster teams have also lead to the ratings decline. Former rivalries like Steelers vs Ravens are no longer relevant. In week four, the game was a 26-9 blowout in favor of Pittsburgh. Popular teams are also not doing well. The New York Giants are 1-5 this year, the Dallas Cowboys are 2-3. There are no big storylines to follow either. The hopes of an undefeated New England Patriots were dashed in week one, JJ Watt, Aaron Rodgers and Odell Beckham are hurt and there is no good sleeper team.

Shorter attention span and fantasy football are another factor in the decline. People do not like to watch a full NFL game anymore, something that lasts on average about three hours. On top of this, the ball was found to be in play (a play is happening), for only 11 minutes, in a Wall Street Journal report. Also, fantasy football could an effect. Many people now no longer have a strong favorite team, so they no longer watch the whole game of the team. Instead, all a person needs to know to play fantasy football are the stats of the players they own, and either watch only Redzone (which costs $50 instead of 300 for Direct TV’s Sunday Ticket) or not watch the games at all. Even though it makes people interested in football, fantasy football does not make them very interested in watching games.

The decline of the NFL television ratings has to do with several factors, some of which are due to waning interest in the NFL while some of which are the opposite. The National anthem protests, injuries, bad matchups have to do with the former while the new sources of the games have to do with the latter.