TV ratings for NFL games continue to sputter in comparison to the prior year, even when compared to last year’s sputtered ratings. Wall Street is noticing.
“Continued declines in NFL ratings again this season will likely place further downward pressure on media stocks,” Guggenheim Securities analyst Michael Morris told the Hollywood Reporter (via SportsBusiness Daily). “[T]he NFL is an indicator of overall primetime programming ratings performance.”
NFL games, which currently are broadcast by NBC, CBS, FOX, and ESPN, generate $2.5 billion in advertising revenue, which means that a 10-percent ratings drop could cost more than $200 million.
As noted by Richard Deitsch of SI.com (and harvested by Sports Media Watch), nine of 13 broadcasting windows through Week Two have shown a drop when compared to 2016.
Attributing blame for the drop has been a slippery proposition. Last year, unprecedented interest in the presidential election was a major reason for the decline — and it’s entirely possible that ongoing interest in politics and world events (as evidenced by record ratings for cable news networks) has kept people from watching as much football as usual.
Whatever the reason, the league should take this seriously, doing everything possible to grow and hold an audience. As recently argued here, the league should be willing and able to slide Sunday games around for any and every given week in order to put the best possible games on the biggest possible platforms. This week, for example, games like Texans-Patriots would generate more interest in the 4:25 p.m. ET national window than Bengals-Packers or Chiefs-Chargers, the two CBS options for a slot that typically draws some of the biggest audiences of the week.