When it comes to the week-in, week-out NFL ratings, skilled P.R. professionals know how to make bad numbers look good and/or good numbers look bad. Cumulative, all-encompassing numbers are more difficult to spin.
And here are the cumulative, all-encompassing numbers for NFL ratings through six weeks, via Darren Rovell of ESPN.com: The audience is down by 7.5 percent.
Specifically, 15 million people on average watched games for the first six weeks of the year. Last year, the number was 16.2 million. The NFL had no comment on the issue, when contacted by ESPN.
The situation has gotten bad enough to prompt Credit Suisse to lower its price targets for both FOX and CBS stocks.
It’s unclear what the league is doing to address the situation, but the league has every reason to figure out what’s causing the decline, and to then solve it. Although the fees paid by the networks are largely locked in through 2022, it will be difficult if not impossible for the league to avoid taking a haircut in the next round of talks if the league can’t figure out how to spark some Chia-speed growth in viewership.
Last year, it was easy to blame the decline on election coverage. This year, it’s harder to pinpoint the precise reason. Whatever it is, the decline for the first six weeks of 2017 in comparison to 2016 has grown to 18.7 percent.