NFL ratings struggles getting noticed by Wall Street

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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 (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.

69 responses to “NFL ratings struggles getting noticed by Wall Street

  1. I am sure all the “Protests” have a lot to do with it. Fans who pay their hard earned money don’t like watching players step all over the flag.

  2. Officiating and cord cutters.

    The officiating has ‘dumbed down’ defense by over-protecting/favoring offensive stars.
    Stars and revenue generating big market franchises became more important than the game.

    Society is changing.
    The new generation isn’t buying cable packages… AND… isn’t as interested in football.

    Until NFL is on Amazon or Netflix… ratings will continue to drop.
    THAT SAID… ratings will continue to drop even after an Amazon/Netflix deal.
    Times are changing.

  3. I don’t think the casual fan is as willing to watch other teams play and arrange their schedules around NFL games.

    Combine that with subpar matchups and constant lecturing from the enlightened and we’re seeing the real floor of NFL viewership.

    Tonight, for instance, is two struggling teams in a west coast market.

  4. National anthem protests. And now you have NFL players asking for a month to honor some sort of unity day? Goodell needs to shut anything political down on the football field.

  5. Ridiculous suspensions, the most hated commissioner is the history of sports, protesting the National Anthem, dumbing down the game, stupid penalties and protesting the National Anthem… I can go on…

  6. Utterly predictable. Speaking of which, give Goodell a fat new contract and see how the ratings do. He’s definitely worth another $400 million in lost revenue.

  7. Ratings are soft and way too many empty seats at the games. Throw in the antics and theatrics. It’s simple: nobody cares about football.

  8. I disagree about the protests as the reason, in reality it’s the SJW’s protesting Kap not having a job

  9. A 4th grader could tell you: First, too many commercials. Then there are far too many play reviews. If computers are to officiate the game, then let’s have computer nerds play the game. Political protests have no place on the field. NFL: National Felons League. Too much exposure (do we really need Thursday nite games and two Monday nite games?). Blackmailing cities into spending taxpayer money for stadiums (see Minneapolis, San Diego, St. Louis, Oakland, San Francisco (really Santa Clara). Ticket prices way too high. Super Bowl ticket prices out of reach for the ordinary person.

    What am I missing?

  10. Parity has disappeared. There are at least a dozen teams that have no realistic chance of making the playoffs. Does anyone think the playoff teams this year won’t be basically the same ones as last year and that everyone will be playing for second behind New England

  11. I think the main reason for it is because the Daily Fantasy craze brought in huge amounts of non-fans in the last 5-7 years years. The ratings were growing like crazy. Now it’s old news, it’s peaked and the fair weather fans that were in it as a novelty are out.

    Second, Goodell has increased ratings through the reality TV aspect of the NFL. Deflategate, etc. helped interest new fans, and now those fans are out. There is not much compelling drama.

    Peyton retiring didn’t help things. When Brady retires it will be worse. The game is lacking true superstars at the moment.

    Of course, the world happenings is a factor too. 3 of the largest hurricanes in history all back to back, two hitting the US badly. North Korea, the white house. People are caring about real stuff right now and not sports.

    I think all these things are a factor.

  12. Until NFL is on Amazon or Netflix… ratings will continue to drop.
    THAT SAID… ratings will continue to drop even after an Amazon/Netflix deal.
    Times are changing.

    It does appear the NFL is gonna have a hard time roping in millenials.

  13. Ratings are down regardless of programming because the networks never adjusted for cord cutting in the first place.

    In the same way the music industry was slow to adapt to peer to peer sharing and downloading content, the major broadcasters aren’t creating an alternative to those who can simply download their media or stream it online.

    Until they do they’ll see ratings go down exponentially.

  14. It’s mostly due to people moving to streaming platforms. All traditional media ratings are going down 10-15% a year. The NFL is probably declining less than everything else, but all will be affected. Will all the new viewing options available, it gets harder and harder to justify sticking around to watch the Bengals get blown out.

  15. The NFL is for getting it’s principles for growth. The fan…the NFL built on integrity, tradition and character. Relocation and betraying decades old fan bases is their mantra. Mismanagement prevails. The Charger relocation is unraveling and will have a serious negative ripple effect throughout the league.

  16. Greed is slowly eating away at the fan base. There are a lot of reasons including protesting the anthem, but most of them all fall into greed. Too many games w Monday, Thursday, Sunday and Sunday night is too much, it’s over satiation. Tickets prices are too high, parking too much ($100 for LA games I heard) and concessions out of control. The game is changing and that hurts it too but it’s all about greed. Teams don’t care about hometown fans and that’s been proven over and over, Oakland, San Diego and St Louis losing teams because of greed. My Jaguars play in London due to greed.

    The fans have spoken and enough is enough. Let’s see if the league is listening. I doubt it. Cuban was right.

  17. For me, as well, it’s tough watching the Chargers be a complete disaster (not just on the field) in Los Angeles. So sad to see how they were ripped from San Diego and no one cares about them and the organization is going to great lengths to pretend everything is fine when it clearly is not fine.

  18. Remember – this place isn’t the fans at large but living in an NFL city I’ll say this.

    VERY few, and I mean less than 1/2 of 1% of the fans give a rip about the Commish and what he’s doing day to day. It’s a non-factor in the ratings drop.

    Last year when you wrote these articles, people said the election was part of it but not really all of it. They were laughed at. Now we’re down this year off of last.

    It REALLY is the SJW part of the NFL and the politics being forced into the game and onto fans who use the NFL (in the past) to get away from the politics.

    Look at the election map by county. VAST swaths of this country simply do not conform to what you and people like Kaep thing we want or are believe is happening.

    Bring back football, cut down on the commercials, kill Thursday night games, let defenses play – ratings will come back.

  19. 1. Eliminate the Thursday night games and instead make Monday a double header like it is week 1

    2. Don’t force West Coast teams to play at 10am

    3. Cut down on the time official reviews and challenges take to do and implement

    4. Move kickoffs back to their original spot. They’re some of the most exciting plays in football

    5. Don’t force players to hit the knees. This war on concussions has really hurt big defensive hits, which are exciting

  20. It’s a pretty huge stretch to call what’s happening to the NFL a “ratings struggle”
    It would be far more accurate to describe it as a small dip in viewership. In relative terms the NFL still crushes pretty much everything else in ratings. Far more people watch meaningless preseason games with third string players than they do regular season baseball games that have playoff implications for example

  21. Very simple. It’s football, but it doesn’t seem like it’s football any more. It’s entertainment, politics, advertising, and analysis about non-football things (ironically stories like this). Purists are the core of the fan base, and want to see football, preferably the way it was when it became popular in the 1960s/1970s.

    Whether fair or not, if Kaepernick is signed ratings will go way down, much more than they already have. And people who stop watching will realize they don’t miss it, just like many already have. All the warnings signs have been there but keep getting ignored.

  22. Not enough individual rivalries anymore. All the players are friends off the field. the NBA was so great in the 90s because those players legitimately hated one another. Need more of that in the NFL. Beckham vs. Norman was a breath of fresh air.

  23. It’s a number of things that people have hit on.

    – People protesting because of Anthem protests
    – People protesting Kap not being on a team (I have multiple friends who refuse to watch the NFL until he is signed)
    – A hated commissioner
    – 2 teams in LA that no one in LA want to watch. We have our favorite teams when the Raiders and Rams left, and our favorite teams aren’t the Rams and Chargers
    – Exorbitant cost for a TV package in order to watch your favorite team play
    – Exclusive rights deals to the games which limit product availability (for instance Verizon has exclusive rights to NFL on mobile phones (Random and extremely limiting, especially for cord cutters)

    To a lesser extent:
    – Games that start before West Coast fans get out of work
    – Games that start before West Coast fans have a chance to wake up

    All in all I think the NFL has gotten away from making decisions for their core fans. They now make decisions for their corporate sponsors, and the typical people that can afford a Super Bowl ticket. Right or wrong it will only change once revenues start decreasing. It’s bound to happen eventually.

  24. Get rid of Roger Goodell. It’s unwatchable knowing Goodell is associated with the NFL. Although, that won’t happen with them working on the extension for this clown.

  25. Too many streaming media choices, short attention spans, over-saturation, over-paid players, ridiculously priced game tickets, waning interest in fantasy football, and CTE. A lot of issues for the NFL and its future

  26. I can’t speak for anyone else but I know my love of the game has indeed diminished with what we now know about concussions and CTE. It sounds funny to say this but it takes the joy out of the violence. Football used to be respite, a diversion out of the news and politics and health issues etc. there was a little bit of super hero/ pro football fantasy mixed in. The last couple of years the real world has come crashing in. You used to be able to sit next to another fan and it just didn’t matter what their race, politics, age etc was. You had the game itself and this was all. I don’t know, it seems like every little corner of the world is infected with gigantic looming serious questions, even good old dumb football.

  27. The NFL started not caring about the fans in the stands in the 1970’s. In more recent times ads on TV are longer than the play on the field. I will / may watch my local team and not any other games not involving that team and that for me is a major change. The NFL owners “may” notice only if it starts costing them money. This comes from a season ticket holder since 1973.

  28. People are tired of seeing their teams get smoked by the Pats. But nobody, including goodell, can seem to do anything about it.

    So Pats fans keep cheering and the rest of the fans keep whining.

  29. The problem is the league made the NFL offices too big of a character in trying to take pressure off of each of the teams. They have become the identity of the NFL. No one likes the NFl offices because they have no credibility and are turned away because Goodell has too much in common with Don King from the 70s.

  30. The reason for declining ratings is Kaepernick and the anthem protesters. How can anyone rationally argue otherwise? We have a control group, college football ratings. College football ratings are up. All the factors cited for declining NFL ratings apply equally to college football ratings, yet college ratings are up. Why? The only difference is the NFL (stupidly) allows protests of America on its own time no less, and college football does not. I know the anthem protests are the only reason I no longer watch the NFL. Good job Kaepernick.

  31. the game has changed significantly. A 1990s football fan transported into the future would likely turn the TV off and walk away shaking his head. I hate to sound old since I’m only 33 but it’s the truth. I have said it before—there are much more dangerous jobs that pay much less than football. Let the defenses hit again.

  32. There was a time when I would sit and watch whatever game was on. It never mattered who was playing. I would watch a matchup of the two worst teams. Sure, some games were better than others but I watched, no matter what. Now, I didn’t even bother to turn on the opening Thursday game until mid 4th quarter or so. THAT has never happened before. I have not cut the cord. There is no election taking up my attention. The simple truth is that football is slowly losing my interest. It is partly because of politics being forced on viewers, rule changes, lack useful practices, international games, teams moving from dedicated fanbases, criminals, league incompetence on discipline, whining union, horrid officiating and potential corruption…the list goes on and on. 20 years ago it was unthinkable that I would not care about watching games. Now, it is only my team, a great matchup or if I happen to be bored. I am certain I am not alone. The NFL does not seem to care about losing longtime fans because they think the millennials and centennials will replace their middle aged audience. The fallacy is that many of THOSE folks are cord cutters, don’t care much about the game beyond fantasy stats and way too many simply cannot maintain the attention span necessary to watch a 3 hour game. Good luck with that NFL…you are definitely going to need it.

  33. There is a game on tonight and I am NOT watching. Deliberately not watching to send a message. There was a time that if there was a game on I would watch, no matter how bad the matchup. I hope Goodell and the players are paying attention. There are millions like me, and doing it for the same reason. I won’t watch the protesters.

  34. Fantasy has killed game viewership. People now are watching a stats website instead of a game, they don’t care about a team.

  35. Easy fix first fire goodell second stop the officials from favoring certain teams I’m looking at u green bay third break the Monopoly DirecTV has with Sunday ticket that was easy wasn’t it

  36. Games are entirely too long. It’s 3.5 to 4 hours. Good luck roping in younger viewers who have shorter and shorter attention spans. Laugh all you want but soccer will grow – you’re in and out in 2 hours.

  37. Ummm let’s see… how about the game turning into battle of QBs and watching the same teams in the playoffs year after year for the past 16 yrs. Is that supposed to be exciting or something? No parity in the league.

  38. I wonder how the rezone channel affects the ratings. I could give a rip about watching a random game that’s not the Packers unless it’s a really good match up. Why would you sit through commercials for a game you don’t really care about, when you can watch all the good parts of each game.

  39. Time was, scoring was hard to do. Field position was a multiple-drives way to fight down the field. And touchdowns were gold.

    I just caught the end of an 80 point game on a Thursday. Dilution of the sanctity of a Sunday, dilution of the magic of a score, and above all else, dilution of defense, has diluted the love of football. It’s just not a big deal to put up points, never mind get first down.

    To much of a good thing makes it seem less exciting. Fantasy made caring about teams seem quaint. And the commercials, atrocious officiating and transparently dishonest commissioner has tarnished the shield.

    Throw in CTE so that we can’t cheer quite as hard after a massive hit anymore, and what do you have left? A deflated football.


  40. To improve their ratings, they should cut back on the amount of commercials they run. Every time a touchdown is scored, they go to a commercial, then after the PAT, they go to a commercial, then after the kickoff is complete, they go to a commercial, etc etc. Because of that I don’t watch live games anymore and instead just record them on my VCR to bypass all those commercials.

  41. As someone who used to be willing to watch a random Jaguars and Browns game, I didn’t watch one minute of NFL last year. Barely have more interest this year.

    I’m beyond sick of the Supreme Court having to resolve NFL’s discipline nonsense. Remove Goodell from disciplinary conversation completely. He’s fumbled it entirely too often.

    You want me to pay $100+ a ticket, charge me $25 to park, $9 for a cup of flat beer, $6 for a 7/11 hot dog… Then raise my taxes for a new stadium because the luxury suites I’ll never see the inside of do not make you enough income? Or you’ll move to a soccer stadium just to spite us? Give me a seat, a clean view of the game, and keep your sushi bars.

  42. I was an avid NFL fan for 50+ years and now have stopped watching. Greedy owners,corrupt commissioner, many punk players. NFL has become a disgusting organization and I’ve lost interest.

  43. A couple of quick fixes for the on-field…

    PI needs to allow more contact between receiver and corner. I mean a DB can’t touch a receiver when ball is in the air, can’t put a hand on his hand, can’t face guard. Let these two athletes play for the ball when it’s in the air. Other than blatantly pushing a guy off his route, let them play and eliminate half the penalties that people bitch about all week.

    Emphasis needs to be made to promote better tackling. The current product in the NFL is based on arms down blasting players with your head/shoulders. I can’t tell you how many defensive players get hurt because their own teammate gave him collateral damage on a launching hit. A guy like Ray Lewis could form tackle and still blast someone. he didn’t need to launch himself at other players to get them down. Too many injuries due to poor form.

    The last issue to me is get these millionaires back in camps. it seems like the amount of injuries during the season has grown since they cut camps down. No one is in “hitting shape” and can take a hit. Couple that with the horrible training staffs that pull guys for every minor ding, and it’s no wonder people don’t watch. No tough guys anymore. For the amount of money they get paid, why the hell are we giving them more time off? Retire if you don’t want to practice!!!

    These are the same things I find fans of football bitch about every week. If you’re not a die hard fan, you just get bored and turn it off.

  44. rportkid says:
    September 22, 2017 at 7:04 am
    I was an avid NFL fan for 50+ years and now have stopped watching. Greedy owners,corrupt commissioner, many punk players. NFL has become a disgusting organization and I’ve lost interest.


    If you don’t watch the NFL, why do you bother to read and post on this site all the time?

    I think you are watching… come on… admit it.

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