Regarding the decline in people watching NFL games on TV, the league’s official approach is this: There’s nothing to see here.
In a memo distributed to the 32 franchises, top executives Brian Rolapp and Howard Katz downplay the 11-percent reduction in ratings through four weeks of the season, with an even sharper decline in prime-time windows.
“While our partners, like us, would have liked to see higher ratings, they remain confident in the NFL and unconcerned about a long-term issue,” Rolapp and Katz write, via the Wall Street Journal. The memo also boasts that pro football “continues to be far and away the most powerful programming on television and the best place for brands and advertisers.”
The memo attributes the drop in viewership to the presidential election. It also claims that the national anthem protests have not affected ratings.
“In fact, our own data shows that the perception of the NFL and its players is actually up in 2016,” the memo explains.
It’s not known what the data is, and whether it was compiled before Colin Kaepernick and others began to not stand for the anthem. Has the NFL convened focus groups regarding the impact of the anthem protests? Has the league conducted detailed polling and/or surveying of fans?
Plenty of people have been huffing and puffing about boycotting the NFL over the anthem issue. How does the league know with certainty that those folks aren’t successfully blowing the house down?
Whatever is happening, it’s important for the league to take the matter very seriously. It’s one thing to allay concerns of owners, networks, advertisers, and the media public comments and leaked memos. It’s quite another to privately react to the shrinking audience the same way Homer Simpson did when he started losing his hair, declaring “there’s plenty more when that came from” as he continued obliviously into baldness.