NFL prime time ratings have declined for 25 of 26 games

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The NFL’s prime time television ratings decline isn’t about any individual game, any individual matchup or any individual time slot.

In fact, the NFL is declining in its ratings so broadly that only one prime time game all season has had a higher TV rating than the game in the same time slot during the 2015 season. That one was the Week Three Thursday night matchup of the Patriots and the Texans.

Aside from that game, every single prime time game has seen a ratings decline — that’s 25 out of 26 prime time slots, according to Sports Media Watch.

Those numbers strongly indicate that the ratings decline isn’t about blowout games or bad matchups or the presidential election. If those were the problems, the ratings wouldn’t be down in the close games and the good matchups and the nights when there’s not a lot of campaign news.

Instead, the NFL’s ratings decline is broad-based, affecting every team, every night and every week. That’s a real problem for the league, one that the owners need to get their hands around.

88 responses to “NFL prime time ratings have declined for 25 of 26 games

  1. Who cares. This doesn’t affect the fans at all. If anything, this is good for fans. Maybe this will top them from creating a London team and focus just on the game in the US.

  2. The CBA provisions on less practice has cheapened the quality of the game. It’s also enhanced injuries, which puts lesser talent on the field to play bad. It’s not like the raiders actually got any better. The league is playing it’s way back to them.

  3. Mark Cuban was dead on when he said that the league’s greed would cause them to implode. It’s starting with greedy owners, what they did to St Louis, extorting brand new stadiums every 20 years from cities, bad product on the field, etc.

  4. Many will disagree but it comes down to 33 men who simply don’t understand what the real football fan wants.

  5. 8 minutes of action vs two hours of commercials. Players acting like robots instead of embracing the atmosphere for fear of being fined obscene amounts of money. Officials performing worse than the replacements everyone was verbally beating down.

    Not a hard decision.

  6. As a 50+ year fan, these are the reasons. Not one but several
    1. Roger Goodell. No need to say more.
    2. Commercials. There have always been commercials, but it is now at the point where you watch commercials with a little football thrown in. I can’t understand how the other football has teams worth just as much as NFL teams, yet have NO commercials.
    3. Officiating. It’s not only bad, it’s bad to the point where you wonder if it is “pre determined” who will get what calls. Add that in to the fact that the officials need a two minute conference every time there is a flag.
    4. Rules. Too many ticky tac fouls called, like illegal hands to the face. My personal favorite though is pass interference. teams are rewarded for qb’s making lousy throws that are short, and the receiver stops and the defender bumps him. Plus they are called way too arbitrarily.
    5. Flow. For the reasons above, there is no flow, no momentum to any games now.
    6. Thursday games. NFL claims they are concerned for player safety. Yet players aren’t recovered in time for Thursday games. Integrity, my a$$.

    Just my 2 cents worth. I know it is why I am watching less. Again, love the game, hate the NFL Office.

  7. Well you got the Raiders and the 4th largest television market(Bay Area) which is a hard core football area interested in tonight’s game so those ratings are about to get a boost.

  8. the world is transitioning away from the old model of television delivery. maybe people should stop trying to judge things by that model, and broaden their approach.

  9. Look at teams in Prime Time, San Fran vs Rams week 1, Chicago week 2 and 3, Jets vs Buffalo week 2, Atlanta and New Orleans week 4, az vs san fran week 5, Tampa Carolina week 5, Indy Houston week 6, Jets vs Az week 6, Denver vs houston week 7. How many teans with winning records and look at the fan base.

  10. These Thursday Night games are ridiculous. It’s too much. Also, the B I G has signed to play games on Friday nights. What about high school football? I always thought that was THEIR night.

    When I think of all the time I’ve wasted (and I LOVE football) Thurs, Sat, Sun and Mondays its well, I’m afraid to count the actual hours. I’m in a College Football Pool and play Fantasy Football.

    So I’m a busy gal.

  11. If you’ve read the comments on all previous PFT articles on this subject there is ONE and only ONE reason for the decline. You see it in the amount of responses and you see it in the “like/dislike” numbers.

    People are not pleased with the disrespect shown to our flag, anthem, veterans & country. Deny it all you want but I no longer watch games not including my home team or a very attractive matchup, like a Packers/Patriots or a Seahawks/Steelers type.

  12. The whole decline is not the result of one specific thing but rather the accumulation of many. First, we have the protests which they should have just ignored from the get go by not showing them on camera. Second, people are tired of seeing the same teams in it every year when we were supposed to have parity years ago with the NFL using their referees as the great equalizers in unethical ways. Third, way too many commercials and the game needs to be sped up by not having so many commercial breaks where there ought not to be like after a kickoff for example. Finally, too many rule changes that are completely asinine and don’t affect player safety at all like the recent new kickoff rule which has totally backfired.

    As much as people want to deny aspects of my statement it’s the bitter truth…

  13. watching both the NFL and NHL
    its night and day.

    the integrity of the game, the leadership and the
    combination of adjusting to the future and not getting too far away from the past & history of the game.

    Also, the NFL is a dumpsterfire
    lack of leadership, no transparency, no fairness, no respect
    and lets be real – there about 5-6 teams with a chance to win the Super Bowl.

    i mean how do you sell products like the Browns, my Dolphins (prior to Gase), Jaguars etc to the Fanbases??
    after a while garbage wrapped in christmas paper is still garbage, even if you change the colors.

    stop the freaking expension of the league. nobody wants a team in london. and how come nobody has mentioned that the german fans make a good portion of the attendance in the stadium. Its not like the NFL is a huge deal in England, its Europe. If you ever go to a game in London you ll see that there are so many jerseys from the Pats, Packers, Raiders, Cowboys, Dolphins, Giants etc…. so how can you think that
    a) you ll be able to create a fanbase
    b) there going to be any homefield advantage = how good can the product be

    the NFL’s main focus should be on the American market
    – paying 300+ bucks/year for the freaking gamepass when the NHL one is half the price and offers 82 games + playoffs (Go Rangers)

    if you appreciate the fanbase in Europe so much – why did you tear down the NFL Europe – while you had a farm system in place (which is now a big toppic again) and decent filled stadiums.

    to me thats the big conclussion of the Roger era.
    Plan, no Plan

    I also think Fantasy Football is a problem,,
    im very happy that the todays trend in the NFL is back
    to Ground & Pound and Playaction Football, and we re over the pistol, wildcat etc crap.

    Is it just me who enjoys a beautiful defensive battle??
    if i want a highscoring no defense game i join the Saints fanbase.

  14. It’s the anthem thing and the commercials. But it is so funny how the liberal media is in denial about the anthem thing. I know people personally who aren’t watching because of that.

  15. hint: lazy, bad ownership tied to greed and closed door league
    manipulation from afar on park ave, has caused this.

    see joe flacco’s horrendous contract by a stupid ozzie newsome, having a chain reaction of 20 mil per year qbs on up to 60% of the leagues qbs.

    this means upwards of 70-80% of teams’ qbs are overpaid because they are mediocre or simply
    not good, which means cap hells create a bad parity in the nfl, hence the product suffering as a result.

    also, the incessant rule changes and tweaks are clearly happening at a higher rate than when tagliabue ran the league.

    fire goodell

  16. and one last thing…
    i stopped watching the NFL Network since they became the E! / InTouch of Football.

    how come they cancelled all the educational / X’s & O’s programms and became the Keeping up with the Goodells brainfreeze

    another thing – i get loyality and stuff but how come they cant get analysts without fanboy glasses.
    Ex Ravens players will never give credit to the Steelers
    and stuff like that
    – thats just not credible

    also – they only cover the few popular teams and some of the popular topics.

    i think by today everybody knows that the NFL is a big money-hungry entertainment machine – the sport & culture of the game should be the center of the game.

    also – waaaaaaaaaayyy to many commercial breaks,
    some games are unwatchable and feel like watching QVC (tv shopping channell)

  17. Whether people are going to admit it or not, here are the reasons why:

    -national anthem protests
    -poor officiating and the league’s hypocrisy
    -Roger Goodell (when he’s gone, the ratings may improve)
    -poor prime-time match-ups
    -cable cutting
    -the fans are tired of domestic violence/drugs/criminals
    -the election
    -Peyton Manning’s retirement
    -Brady’s suspension over a questionable investigation
    -other politics being brought into the games

  18. 1. Fire Goodell
    2. Stop these London games
    3. Cut the preseason down to two games, add 2 regular season + 1 more bye week
    4. Make the refs full time and pay them like professionals.
    5. Then BAN Roger Goodell from all NFL functions forever.

  19. 2 factors that are different this year from previous seasons:
    The anthem protests have occurred during a politically charged time when national pride has been brought to the forefront
    Then there is the conclusion of deflategate which has exposed the nfl ownership as being the real cheaters—–you may not like the patriots but the treatment that they received is similar to that given to the Dolphins and the Saints. This has become a pattern for the NFL. Add that to the NFL’s deception regarding the concussion issues and the hypocrisy in dealing with domestic violence issues.
    Fans may be following their own teams but interest in other games has declined as a result. If a fan watches only one game on a Sunday where they may have watched 3 games, then that results in a significant decrease in viewership.

  20. scrap7681 says:
    Nov 6, 2016 12:28 PM

    It seems like people are upset with the NFL this season. Wonder what that could be???

    I know it isn’t the anthem protests, because the only time I see anything about that is when I come here and see a bunch of self-entitled bozos crying about it.

    Maybe they need to get some Nielsen viewers that are NFL fans.

  21. Is anyone other than fans of the teams playing “Waiting All Day for Sunday Night”? Not many. Ditch the Thursday night games also. Sunday and Monday night only.

  22. .
    The Lunacy of Goodell and Framegate

    Goodell charged each franchise $360,000 to persecute Brady. Goodell tried to make the “outcome arbiter” of the NFL season . Now, the Brady suspension is over. The Patriots are 7-1, have a favorable schedule going forward, and are a favorite to go to the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, Goodell has been exposed as a fraud and charleton. Fans impression of the NFL as a fair and unbiased enterprise has been justifiably shaken to the core by Goodell’s overreach and maliciousness.

  23. It’s 70 degrees in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on a sunny November day. It’s hunting season, the fish are biting, and the golf courses are open. Who in their right mind wants to sit in the house and watch crappy TV. Time to play 60 (or all day in my case). If you are wondering what I’m doing online, just having a coffee break and lunch.
    I’ll be checking back after dark to see what happen today (online that is).

  24. Without a doubt, the ratings decline started when Las Vegas sportsbooks began scaling back their spaces and getting stingy with drink comps. The NFL has but one avenue to recovery: free beer for all!

  25. Tonight is the first big game of the year, so that will help a lot.

    Now throw in all the other reasons above.

  26. A lot of reasons mentioned but most of these issues have been around in previous years.

    England games
    Thursday Night Games
    Game not as crisp due to practice schedules

    While I think these things can be supplemental reasons I do not feel they are the primary.

    There are two things that are new to this league this year:


    While I think the week day games such as Monday and Thursday may be hurt by the election because more people may be turning into their primetime news show of their choice, it doesn’t explain Sunday night and even the afternoon. Kind of leaves one other reason the protests, I know myself personally I have watched a lot less football this year because of this, while I haven boycotted entirely I have watched mainly my teams game and a minimal amount of other games.

  27. I know it isn’t the anthem protests, because the only time I see anything about that is when I come here and see a bunch of self-entitled bozos crying about it.


    Do you get out much? If not, just read comments on low rating articles on, this site, MSN, Yahoo,, Youtube, etc. There have been dozens of polls on different sites and each time, the national anthem protests were the number one reason.

    What’s the common denominator this season in comparison to past seasons??? You guessed it, the protests. Back in the 2012 election year, the ratings were still above average. No one watches football to see SJWs use the anthem for their political platform. It’s the liberals that don’t admit the impact.

  28. overexposure of the product, plain and simple. any college freshman in a marketing class could tell you this.

    they have too much football out there- too much content for fans, it saturates it, and allows fans to pick and choose what they want to engage in.

    thurs night games, with london 4 games on sunday, then mnf. my guess the same number of DIFFERENT eyeballs are watching every week, but they are dispersed over a higher variety of nfl programming.

  29. My reasons for jettisoning the NFL
    1) Roger Goodell… the NFL was deceitful and shameless in their persecution of Brady and NE. Manufacturing evidence to fit their fabricated narrative ? Criminal!!!
    2) Excessive commercials…..I stopped attended games because the live product had no flow and the TV viewing experience is worse.
    3) The on-field product is pathetic. Unprepared teams officiated by overmatched officials with excessive interruptions
    4) Alternate entertainment choices. Reading internet has become more interesting than NFL contests.
    5) The face of the NFL is Roger Goodell …..and that does not entertain me…it sickens me.

  30. brownsalwaysrebuilding says:
    Nov 6, 2016 12:29 PM
    It’s because you disrespect the flag our buddies’ caskets were draped in.

    18 5

    The people who sent your buddies into those hell hole countries that lead to those caskets could care less, so why don’t you take it up with them instead of whining about athletics taking a knee?

  31. NFL prime time ratings are down? Sorry, but I just really can’t bring myself to care about the problems a few billionaires face. I still have to pay rent, no matter how bad NFL ratings get. Their loss is my gain. The price of NFL Sunday Ticket should also decline correspondingly, right?

  32. It’s just a combination of unequal & arbitrary justice by the commissioner…..and then the obvious impact of officials “mistakes” against some teams and for the “chosen few”…..I’ve just decided to spend more of my time elsewhere.

  33. If Goodell goes, I will watch the NFL as a whole, like I used to do.

    If Goodell stays, I will only watch Patriots games, until Brady retires, and then I will just watch the NBA.

  34. ReligionIsForIdiots says:
    Nov 6, 2016 1:05 PM
    brownsalwaysrebuilding says:
    Nov 6, 2016 12:29 PM
    It’s because you disrespect the flag our buddies’ caskets were draped in.

    18 5

    The people who sent your buddies into those hell hole countries that lead to those caskets could care less, so why don’t you take it up with them instead of whining about athletics taking a knee?

    @religion Well said!

  35. @mmack66…..we went from the bad schedule, to the awards show, & now the elections. After Tuesday is it gonna be the weather is nice, people are taking advantage of it & having picnics? Or when the ratings are down on Thanksgiving is it gonna be because more stores are open & people are shopping? Or when the superbowl tanks, it’s gonna be Lady Gagas’ fault rite? I can’t speak for everyone, & I know there are also other reasons, but for me it’s the protests. As much as I loved watching the NFL, I love my country more, greatest country in the world! I get my sports fix from the NHL now. United We Stand.

  36. Just about every Patriots fan I know loathes the league offices and will go out of their way to see that the NFL does not get a single dime out of their pocket.

    The hate runs VERY deep. Too bad, because there are so many great cities and rivalries among the teams that this should be embraced enthusiastically, but that can’t happen when a cabal of a few low-life owners try to impose their brand of liar’s justice upon their betters.

  37. Mark Cuban wasn’t right about anything so quit bringing his stupid name up. The NBA is pure garbage with blatantly rigged games favoring ratings and large market teams and can’t draw half the ratings of an NFL preseason game so why morons keep bringing up Cuban is ridiculous.

  38. Disrespectful turds who refuse to stand for the national anthem have me watching WAY LESS games than I ever have in my life, since becoming a fan over 40+ years ago.

  39. Also, ONE thing has changed this year, just one! Every season has bad match-ups, elections are every four years, everyone has the option to watch other shows, ect, ect, ect…. & the NFL always came out on top. I could be wrong, been wrong before.

  40. Wake up!! It’s all the penalties because of all the new rules. Defensive holding, PI calls and all the personal foul calls in the name of player safety. They’re trying to legislate hitting out of the game.

  41. The major difference between this season and last season is the greedy NFL stealing a franchise from it’s fanbase. NFL ripped Rams out of St Louis, because they couldn’t afford a new stadium in a bad economy, so they could plunk them down in a richer market. And don’t bother telling me about their past in LA, that proves my point instead of refuting it. NFL proved just how little they care about fans. The greed of NFL owners will be their undoing, can’t wait!

  42. The games are too long with too many time outs for challenges and commercials. I do not want to watch a one hout football game turn into three hours of commercials and bad calls. The league is also getting to be boring and the NFL has oversaturated the market with too many NFL games and a lot of them are dogs to watch. Some fans are tired of too many NFL games.

  43. dallascowboysforever says:
    Nov 6, 2016 12:48 PM

    Do you get out much? If not, just read comments on low rating articles on, this site, MSN, Yahoo,, Youtube, etc.

    I have a life, so I don’t have time to pay any attention to all of that nonsense.

  44. I can’t believe people on here still talking about the protest lol. I honestly had forgot all about it I really can’t even remember the last time they showed one

  45. I got rid of ESPN and the NFL network and am very happy with the outcome. My cable bill went down by a few hundred bucks a year.

  46. Gee, Just about every fan says that ratings are down due to the Anthem protests.. And the only game that didn’t see a ratings decline was the one featuring The “Patriots”.

  47. 1. Too many games. Drop the thursday night stuff.

    2. Streaming is the future. But with the crazy prices the NFL is charging, people are just going to go over to the ‘free’ streams.

    3. Too many commercials.

    4. All teams try to play the same game. There’s no variety like in college. We need a team to run a triple option offense and the like.

  48. Let me see if I can help.

    This morning in the Pacific Northwest, we are being forced to watch the Cleveland Browns vs. Dallas Cowboys. Turned it on for two minutes, promptly turned it off. Why would anyone spend 3 hours watching pure garbage?

    Get NFL Ticket you say? (nice monopoly)

    Hell no will anyone pay those prices for a crappy product!

    Ridiculous amount of commercials – (newsflash, we don’t want to see the same FOX TV shows over and over and over; we never watch that garbage either!)

    Rule changes – this isn’t football. Official now take center stage on every pass and every special teams play. Flag, flag, flag, flag, flag, flag, flag, flag, flag…..FLAG…..flag, flag….

    Not Entertaining – no personality, political statements, can’t celebrate enjoy anything, told what to wear and how to wear it, ….ever read the book 1984 by Orwell?

    Corrupt Leadership/Owners – stealing from fanbases, ripping people off from parking to tickets, cover ups and random ‘scandals’ … wife beaters vs. drug addicted owners? Mock ‘concern’ for athletes….. they really don’t care about the dudes that have died, killed themselves, etc.

    Marijuana – “go bash your brains out until its mush and we are going to tell you how to deal with the pain…..nothing from mother Earth….we got your pharma right here.” – Roger Goodell

    All in all….there is much better things to do with your precious time. Very dirty product all built around big business. The ‘fun’ factor has been wiped from the game……. The NFL is joining a long list of other ‘distractions’ for people including religion, politics, drugs, etc……… and if it doesn’t deliver, people will dispose of it.

  49. 6ball says:
    Nov 6, 2016 12:39 PM
    The Lunacy of Goodell and Framegate

    Goodell charged each franchise $360,000 to persecute Brady. Goodell tried to make the “outcome arbiter” of the NFL season . Now, the Brady suspension is over. The Patriots are 7-1, have a favorable schedule going forward, and are a favorite to go to the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, Goodell has been exposed as a fraud and charleton. Fans impression of the NFL as a fair and unbiased enterprise has been justifiably shaken to the core by Goodell’s overreach and maliciousness.


    And after all that the Patriots overcoming it to still stay on top is what got the ratings.

  50. charger383 says:
    Nov 6, 2016 12:51 PM
    Players insulting the fans and the USA just brought all the other bad things together



  51. When you make the participants in the sport (Fans and players) feel like it is not a fair league….You are going to get people stop trying and stop watching.

    Same thing is going on with Zero. He spends all his time telling parts of our society that they have a raw deal, wrongly, but half the country has stopped trying.

    So the NFL is just following the trend of the country.

  52. My dad (God Bless his soul) always used to tell me that the league was fixed, that the winners were chosen ahead of time. And I always used to argue with him over it. Now after watching the NFL for 50+ years I’m starting to wonder if he wasn’t right. Certain teams always seem to get all the calls and all the breaks. And I don’t think I’m the only one thinking this way. I think the NFL has a real credibility problem.

  53. Inconsistant officiating between games: Ravens get away with roughing Steelers kicker and get a touchdown, Lions/Vikings gets flagged.

  54. I have a life, so I don’t have time to pay any attention to all of that nonsense.


    Then, you can’t really comment on why the ratings are down if you haven’t been listening or reading comments from numerous different NFL fans or better yet, ex-NFL fans I should say.

    Ex-NFL fans may comment on these articles but have stopped watching NFL games for the most part. People only comment to get their points across. The NFL fans have spoken with their wallets. Even the NBA fines players for kneeling or sitting during the anthem.

  55. mmack66 says:
    Nov 6, 2016 12:37 PM

    I know it isn’t the anthem protests, because the only time I see anything about that is when I come here and see a bunch of self-entitled bozos crying about it.


    And I see in your other post you say you dont look at those other sources because you don’t have time to look anywhere else. So if this is it, then the only time you see this feedback is when you look at feedback. Take a deep breath and think it through.

    As far as the names you call these folks, whatever. The bottom line is that those people, whatever you want to call them, do get to control their own TV sets.

  56. Pull the plug on Thursday Night Football. Even if the games were any good, which they sure aren’t this year, it’s too much.

    Add more flexibility in featuring games. This season, there’s no such thing as a boring Chargers game. So make sure more people can watch them without having to pay some extortionate amount.

    Completely change the rules on celebrations. If the celebration doesn’t delay the game and it’s not obscene, violent or taunting, then anything should go. Let the guys show their joy in the game. Try to put some fun back into the No Fun League.

    The League doesn’t want fans to see players acting like people. They want them all to be like video game avatars or something.

    Probably all part of that idiot Goodell’s plan to show the NFLPA who’s boss. Well, guess what, Roger? Fans do NOT want to always be hearing about you and Blandino making pronouncements and talking a bunch of hypocritical garbage about the integrity of the game.

    It should go without saying that getting rid of Goodell is the single best thing that could happen to help the NFL. Too bad most of the owners are greedy, trust fund idiots who won’t figure that one out until it’s way too late.

  57. All this stuff that you guys arècsaying is bringing down the league.. suppressing celebrations, railroading Tom Brady, the inconsistency of penalties from one case to the next, etc… Roger Goodell was asked in his BBC interview to explain this and he said that the reason for it all was too complex for the average fan to understand.

    So now that you know that it’s just that you are too stupid to understand it, you should just accept it and turn your TV back on.

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