The NFL’s television ratings decline this season is not a result of fewer fans watching, but rather of fans who are watching football watching less of it than they used to.
That’s the word from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who says that the league still has as many fans as ever, it’s just that some of them are turning games off earlier.
“We don’t think we’ve lost viewers, and I think when you look at ratings you have to go a little deeper than that,” Goodell said. “There’s viewers, but also how long they’re engaging for. A lot of times, people will leave a game for whatever reason, whether they’re going to go to other programming, or whether the game is less competitive. Those are all factors. As an example, on the competitive, while we’ve had very close games overall, league-wide, we haven’t had the closest games in prime time. Last year we did, and in 2014 we did, and ratings reflected that the first five weeks at record levels.”
Asked if some people are turning off the NFL because Colin Kaepernick and others are protesting during the national anthem, Goodell dismissed that idea.
“We don’t think that’s a factor and our network partners don’t either,” Goodell said.
Whatever the reasons for fans watching less football, Goodell acknowledged that it’s an issue the league needs to look at. Even as he doesn’t believe fans are turned off by the game as a whole.