Ratings analysis becomes exercise in perspective, spin

Getty Images

Last year, the perception/reality (reality) that NFL ratings had dropped came from a weekly, linear, apples-to-apples comparison of specific windows in 2016 to the same windows in 2015. For example, Week Four Monday night in 2016 was compared to Week Four Monday night in 2015.

Now, the comparisons have become something that depends on the eye of the beholder. Or the brain of the spinner.

During a Tuesday media briefing, NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart never mentioned the specific comparison between Week Four Monday night ratings in 2017 and Week Four Monday night ratings in 2016. Instead, Lockhart said that year-to-date ratings on Monday Night Football are up by six percent in comparison to 2016, and he said that a straight comparison from year to year for the window doesn’t work due to differences in market size.

While the game a year ago involved the Giants and the Vikings, SportsBusiness Daily notes that Washington-Kansas City generated the lowest Monday night Week Four rating since 2011, when the Buccaneers hosted the Colts. Also, the apples-to-apples number from 2017 to 2016 showed a drop of eight percent. (In 2015, the Monday night game for Week Four pitted the Chiefs against the Packers. In 2014, it was Patriots-Chiefs. For 2013, the NFL scheduled Dolphins-Saints in that window. In 2012, the Cowboys hosted the Bears. Each performed better in the Week Four Monday night spot than last night’s game.)

Of course, the league didn’t mind making the straight apples-to-apples comparison a week ago, boasting that Cowboys-Cardinals reflected a dramatic increase over the Monday night game played in Week Three a year earlier. That comparison came without a mention of the difference in national following and, most importantly, without a reference to the fact that the Falcons-Saints game competed with the first debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

The constant effort to massage the ratings in the light most favorable to the league isn’t surprising. Even though the numbers don’t lie, the NFL wants to create the sense that the games are performing better when compared to whatever specific number makes it seem that the league is doing better. If people hear that other people aren’t watching as much football, they may be inclined to watch less football. Likewise, if people hear that other people are watching more football, they may be inclined to watch more football.

39 responses to “Ratings analysis becomes exercise in perspective, spin

  1. Well people get busy this time of year ,specially when it looks like an early winter “here in the midwest “. certain things are more important than watching football. BUT don’t mean we don’t pay attention

  2. Ratings probably aren’t going down. It’s most likely due to the scatter of how people watch NFL games now, which has evolved past the broadcast networks (FOX, CBS, NBC) back in the day, to streaming on Yahoo, Amazon, red zone, sunday ticket streaming, etc… Sometimes all streaming at the same time. And because of the scatter, it’s more difficult to put this into the traditional “ratings” category that people view as being an indicator of it’s doing “good” or “bad”. Which as we all know, isn’t correct, and horribly outdated.

  3. I think it says a lot about someone if they decide not to watch NFL, just because others aren’t watching it. Rather than, say, using your own brain to make your decisions.

  4. What’s the point of comparing two different games, with four different opponents, a year a part?

    Besides, expecting anything approaching the truth from the NFL is a futile endeavor.

  5. Anyone who didn’t watch the game missed a helluva game.

    Anyone who didn’t watch due to “protests during the anthem” (which has been conveniently called “anthem protests” which is not what they actually are) have bought into the notion that simple, trivial displays of patriotism reflect one’s actually level of patriotism.

  6. The MNF game was down 10% from a week ago.Throughout NFL television history, an unbeaten team playing on Monday night (Chiefs) has always equaled ratings, regardless of market size. And the Redskins are a top 10% market.

    The NFL ratings are tanking and it’s not even debatable. I haven’t watched a game in two weeks because of my disgust over all the political BS and the leagues decision to be on the opposite side of the vast majority of fans and I’m not alone.

  7. I know we’ve all jumped to conclusions well before understanding the facts, but the ratings currently being used do not capture the huge, new streaming audience. People are getting rid of their traditional cable package or never buying one in the first place. Plenty of people are still watching that are not being captured by the ratings.

    Further, regardless of how you feel about the above cause, we’re witnessing an effect/trend that’s been going on for a period of years. Jersey burning, flag worship, etc has only been an NFL topic for weeks.

  8. No Fans League.

    I look forward to the CBA talks and the whining and gnashing of teeth. A 4-0 team vs. a 3-1 team on Monday night had ratings the Clinton spokesman had to spin. Have fun with that.

  9. If they actually cared about ratings, they would never have taken MNF off of ABC where it was as influential as SNF on NBC is now. It was an institution and ABC/ESPN/Disney-whoever made it a second-rate property, all the way around.

    They sacrificed the program and the ratings by putting it on ESPN, plain and simple. As more and more people cut cable, the viewing audience is going to shrink and shrink. Especially when you take something people used to get for free OTA, and now make them have to subscribe to satellite/cable to see the same product.

  10. I watched patriots saints week 2 and may never go back. I don’t care who else watches, I have no interest in rooting for these disrespectful, insulting people.

  11. If you ever read the “margin of error” that Nielsen calculates in its disclaimers, you would conclude that all of these ratings should be analyzed with a huge grain of salt.

  12. I’ve hardly missed an NFL game since the 1970s. I thought it would have been impossible for them to drive me away from the game -but they did it. I turned it off after the Kneelathon and will only come back back if they fire Goodell and apologize to the fans. Which, it appears at this juncture, to be unlikely to happen in the near future. But I know there are a lot of people out there like me.

  13. “Likewise, if people hear that other people are watching more football, they may be inclined to watch more football.”

    This paints a percentage of football watchers as complete idiots who cannot think on their own. Speaking of paint, anyone wanna go watch some paint dry? Who’s coming with me?

  14. xenova1 says:
    October 3, 2017 at 6:58 pm

    If you ever read the “margin of error” that Nielsen calculates in its disclaimers, you would conclude that all of these ratings should be analyzed with a huge grain of salt.
    ————————-

    I always figured Nielsen ratings were just as useless as polls.

  15. papathorson says:
    October 3, 2017 at 7:09 pm
    I’ve hardly missed an NFL game since the 1970s. I thought it would have been impossible for them to drive me away from the game -but they did it. I turned it off after the Kneelathon and will only come back back if they fire Goodell and apologize to the fans. Which, it appears at this juncture, to be unlikely to happen in the near future. But I know there are a lot of people out there like me.

    _____________________________________________

    Apologize or I’ll leave? You sound like either a) a spoiled toddler b) a triggered millenial, or c) you were never into football the first place.

    Look in the mirror. This is the silliest reason to stop watching a sport I can think of. You can’t bear to see someone do something that you disagree with? Jeez. Are we all snowflakes now?

  16. I watched all the way up to the point they showed the piece of trash kneeling during the anthem. When I got to work this morning I asked my coworkers who won the game. Was happy to find out that three out of the four guys that watch the nfl (granted nobody is a chiefs or redskins fan) turned off the game at the same point. These are people who wouldn’t miss a match up like this last year.
    Tired of the poor oppressed millionaires disrespecting the flag and this country.

  17. WOW, so the league will only report rating that benefit their own agenda…..Big surprise….

    In other news, water is wet, the sky is blue and women have secrets….

  18. The ratings are terrible and will continue to decline as long as the idiots at the NFL listen to the social justice morons. I’m done with the NFL. I’m going to watch and see if the MLB and NBA decide to go anti-American too then I’m going to become an MMA and Hockey only fan.

  19. The fact that the vast majority of owners have done nothing tells me they aren’t losing money over this. Because you know that’s generally the #1 thing on their minds and I’m sure they’re paying very close attention to revenue streams. If those were reversing so severely, the owners would be making it a priority to get rid of Goodell first and foremost. His contract extension isn’t finished, so they have the opportunity to do so.

  20. Everyone knows ratings are down. The spin is denying it’s due in large part to politics being injected into the game.

    These protests are just the last straw from something that has been building for years. From Bob Costas going on an anti-gun rant during halftime to ESPN’s transformation from sports network to social justice advocates.

    Fans used to watch ESPN all week and get hyped for the weekend’s games. ESPN ratings are way down too. NFL lost their lead in.

    On a side note, even if you agree with the protests, last night was the night to put it aside with the Vegas tragedy. Pretty ridiculous for Peters to sit under those circumstances.

  21. 2020 the TV contract comes up. That is the biggy.

    And the ratings are cratering. When they are not using the Cowboys stats, they are using stilted comparisons to spin. It will become harder and harder to call this chunk of coal a diamond as the season goes on. American’s are speaking with their feet and channel changer.

  22. I know a lot of people who are consuming NFL football on other gadgets, rather than the traditional TV set. The NFL broke their all time record last year for total revenue, and most likely will top that again this year. Eventually, we might not have that many people who are still watching on TV, but as long as the revenue keeps increasing, all is well in pro football land. In fact, football is so popular, now they’re talking about the pre-game activities on all the other prime time shows. Can I buy stock in the NFL? These people are brilliant at making money.

  23. The anthem protests are the cherry on top of pathetic coaching, piss poor refs, Goodell acting like Kim Jong Un and confusing catch rules and again, the terrible refs!! Doesn’t help that half of these O Lines cant block to save their lives.

  24. larryodavid says:
    October 3, 2017 at 8:05 p

    _____________________________________________

    Apologize or I’ll leave? You sound like either a) a spoiled toddler b) a triggered millenial, or c) you were never into football the first place.

    Look in the mirror. This is the silliest reason to stop watching a sport I can think of. You can’t bear to see someone do something that you disagree with? Jeez. Are we all snowflakes now?
    ——————————–

    I love when the ones that are so easily offended over everything, like a wrong choice of words or so called micro-offenses call those who find it wrong that the American flag is dishonored, “Snowflakes.” What irony. But you wouldn’t understand that. You took a game many have loved for years and injected your partisan politics into it – and then are surprised that fans won’t bow to your political correctness. I say if you don’t like the game, then find another sport to follow, like badminton or synchronized swimming. The true NFL fans are speaking out and trying to save the game.

  25. “2020 the TV contract comes up. That is the biggy.”

    Sometimes I wonder what reality people are in. That’s 3 years from now. In this ADD world, do you really think players are still going to be kneeling even 2 years from now? And that fans are going to be “boycotting” that long? Fox, CBS, NBC, and ABC/ESPN all fought tooth and nail just to get the rights to broadcast NFL games. And even in the alternate reality 3 years from now where one of them tries to play hardball with the NFL, another network would gladly step up. I’m sure TNT would love to get back into the game.

  26. No one says it but if ratings are down does that mean the sky is falling for pro football ? i find that very hard to believe. do i kind of get annoyed by the protests ? yeah, but i love watching on game day, supper on the stove, my beautiful samsung hdtv, sitting in my lazy boy, drinking gin and tonics, my buds with me, the wife shopping with my daughters all day. sorry but im not quick to give that up.

  27. I’m not a boycott guy, I’m not going to give up NFL football. But to be honest, as a Marine Corps veteran, the National Anthem protests have really annoyed me. Last year, when people said that they stopped watching because of it, I think that was crazy. Every one has the right to do what they want in America. But it has increasingly annoyed me, so I no longer watch like I used to. I still wont miss a game when it comes to my team. But that is the only game I watch. I used to watch 5 games every week (Thursday Night, Sun at 1, Sunday at 4, Sunday Night, and Monday night). Now, just one game. I know those that support the kneeling and all that are going down vote this (because my freedom to express my opinion isn’t as important as their freedom to express their opinion) but that’s just the reality. The awareness has been raised, time to move on from awareness to action. We wear pink to “raise awareness for Breast Cancer”, and then, you know what happens, people spend their days trying to find a cure. Its time for the awareness raisers to shift gears from awareness to cure. Even if every player decided to stand and honor the flag, it still isn’t going to bring me back to 5 games a week. That isn’t going to happen until I see these people put their money/time/etc into a cure for the cause they feel so strongly about. If all you are going to do is raise awareness, but never put forth effort to find a cure, youre an a-hole

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!