NFL ratings down less than prime time network television as a whole

Getty Images

What is causing the NFL’s declining television audiences? As many people speculate that it’s all about the national anthem or the quality of the games or brain injuries turning fans away, another explanation may simply be that the NFL is on network television, and everything on network television is declining.

In fact, the NFL’s ratings have declined less than the rest of network television: According to CNN, the NFL’s ratings are down 5 percent from last year, while overall prime time programming on the four broadcast networks is down 8 percent from last year.

It’s harder than ever for ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX to draw large audiences because there’s more competition than ever. And it’s hard even to quantify how much that competition is affecting the broadcast networks’ ratings. Audiences for streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu aren’t released publicly. We’ll know on Monday morning how many people watched football over the weekend, but we won’t know how many people chose to watch Stranger Things 2 instead of football. Television is changing in ways that the TV industry hasn’t completely wrapped its arms around.

Although the CEO of FOX complained about NFL oversaturation, the reality is the NFL is doing better than ever, relative to the rest of the programming on network TV.

51 responses to “NFL ratings down less than prime time network television as a whole

  1. Even if you would have told me the Ravens and Dolphins would play a tightly contested game with big plays I still wouldn’t have watched. Nobody wants to watch Matt Moore and Joe Flacco duel it out.

  2. Sorry, but the Dolphins and Ravens just don’t motivate enough to draw a crowd. Divisional matchups or contenders, sure – but when the game is a Tampa Bay VS Indy, or Cleveland and San Francisco? Pass.

  3. Not buying this spin at all. Fans watch NFL games based on love of the game. That love is being tested with all the SJW nonsense bleeding into the game. The Network vs cable stats are more indicative of the economy. When a household is in a financial bind, cutting the cable cord is a primary option to survive. The economy is vibrant now, so cable viewership is up. The NFL viewership is never tied to the economy. It’s ratings drop is of it’s own creation. Nice try.

  4. More smoke and mirrors. When looking at the network ratings it’s share that should be the focus. Of the people that are watching television at any given moment how many of them are watching the NFL and how does that compare to previous years? Share numbers are down meaning it isn’t just cord cutting and competition, the core customer is watching less.

  5. Entertainment is rapidly changing. Same thing has been happening to cinema. And yes both TV and movies suck right now but there have always been plenty of sucky Tv shows and movies. There are so many options for entertainment these days. I don’t do the “social media” thing myself but I’m very aware that is probably on the rise as everything else is on the decline. We Americans have become obsessively self centered since the “internet boom” and I feel many people spend a lot of their time “starring” in their own “social media reality show” as their primary source of entertainment.

    Same thing happened to the music industry. If it wasn’t for car radios, the radio stations would be gone. In the old days before TV radio was the primary source of family entertainment. TV is going through the same changing phases that radio once went through.

  6. Sounds great, keep doing what you’re doing NFL. I bet advertisers consider millennials who stream red zone plays for 14 minutes while checking fantasy scores to be totally as valuable as people who used to watch 8-12 hours on Sundays let alone take their entire family to a stadium. In unrelated news, as a reminder November 12th is the Veterans Day weekend boycott.

  7. The college game is more exciting. Even a match up between Stamford and Oregon St
    was way better than the NFL last night.

  8. It’s ironic that the strongest counterpoint in the argument has zero politics behind it.

    But I do agree with Cuban and Murdoch… the greatest brands know how to tease their customers, and generate at least a perception of elitism or rarity. The NFL only does that by restricting Technology into exclusivity agreements (Sunday Ticket, online streaming) which doesn’t tease their customers, but instead irritates them.

  9. this is an apples and oranges argument—–NFL television does not have the same competition that net tv programming has. I a personally watching less NFL football, but it is not because I am watching the History channel.

  10. This blog post belongs under the headings of “true and unrelated,” “numbers don’t lie but liars can count,” and my favorite – “he uses numbers as a drunk uses a lamppost – for support rather than illumination!”

  11. Says a media outlet that relies on the NFL?

    In other news, Circuit City’s didn’t go out of business, it was just a marketing ploy to intice sales…

  12. The NFL used to be special, games on Sunday and one Monday night game. Now you have Thursday noghts and early morning London games. IMO it is just too much and takes away from what makes Fall SUndays special. I hate Thursday night games especially when the Mighty Patriots are involved because Sundays to me are about GOD Family and Football. I hope the NFL goes back to that.

  13. Too many games that aren’t that interesting being shown. Networks not keeping up with cable at providing interesting television programs. The day is long gone when we will just watch anything.

  14. txmidnite says: Not buying this spin at all. Fans watch NFL games based on love of the game. That love is being tested with all the SJW nonsense bleeding into the game. It’s ratings drop is of it’s own creation. Nice try.
    ——————–

    So how do you explain viewership for the NBA dropping 6% (per Variety), MLB down 6.4% (per Forbes), NASCAR down 12% (per Bloomberg), NHL down 14% (per Awful Announcing) and MLS down 8% (per World Soccer Talk)? Was there some SJW protests at Nascar races that no one knows about??

    But let’s ignore the FACTS and continue to rant about bad officals, Goodell, anthem protests, standing/not-standing etc.

  15. Down is down…spin it however you want…still less people are watching. Now if you want to make an argument that the NFL is not losing it’s fanbase…do some work and compare merch sales year over year by units sold not dollars.

  16. “…the reality is the NFL is doing better than ever, relative to the rest of the programming on network TV.”

    And the reality is that viewership is down something like 20% since 2015. Nice try on the spin though. Face it, football is a shell of what it used to be. For many more reasons than one.

  17. I was watching the Stanford/ Oregon St game. That game was trash so I tunerd to The Miami and Ravens game. That game was worse. So I backed out my PlayStation Vue streaming program and played Black Ops III multiplayer instead of watching TV….gotta love 2017. So many options.

  18. itsjillflorio says: haha. WOW prime-time shows are up all over. This is an outright lie. Shame politicizing football. Especially one that can be so easily proven.
    ———————-

    What?? The numbers are out for Sept25-Oct1 “Premiere Week”. CBS down 15%, NBC down 11%, ABC down 1% and Fox down 14%.

    You really need to fact-check before making stupid comments…

  19. “According to CNN, the NFL’s ratings are down 5 percent from last year…” is that apples or bananas they are reporting?? hmmmmm
    “Although the CEO of FOX complained about NFL oversaturation, the reality is the NFL is doing better than ever, relative to the rest of the programming on network TV.”

    yeah thought so…bananas!!

  20. Huge difference is most of the prime times shows will be on Hulu/ect. The next day. The NFL has streaming ventures but once the games over, it’s over. But that’s just my opinion

  21. You can’t binge watch 16 Eagles’ games on Netflix, Hulu or Acorn, so is it a fair comparison? As for “news” there’s simply more factual information available through online venues.

  22. People who are watching most TV programming have alternatives such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc. However, for watching the NFL, unlike most of the other major sports, there is no digital alternative. Which makes the TV ratings drop for the NFL more significant.

  23. Yeah, I’m not sure the recent track record of CNN should makes them a great reference. Used to watch them all the time, then it just went south. I can only speak about my family and friends, they’ve checked out of the NFL….purchasing the Ticket, buying merchandise, attending games, watching games on tv. I personally still enjoy reading about mess. Maybe next year…

  24. This Bronco fan thinks when it comes to candidates who deserve lower ratings, there can be no better examples than networks that wouldn’t know a real news story if it took a knee and protested in their collective face; or the NFL which thinks symbolically flipping off the country makes for good publicity.

  25. Well, there’s a silver lining. At least it’s not just the NFL being abandoned by it’s fans. This should make all the owners and players sleep better at night. Keep on kneelin’!

  26. Maybe it’s peaked and going back to normal? What’s the expectation that ratings will climb until everyone in watching every game? NFL ratings went nuts when fantasy football took off but that fad is dieing down.

    I will now go look up what Stranger Things is as it sounds better then bottom dwelling NFL teams dueling it out at half rest.

  27. This was my reaction to Mark Cuban’s comments yesterday. People aren’t watching TV the same, so the problem is relative for the NFL. However, they do have a quality issue that they need to address with their game that hopefully someone will realize in reaction to the ratings drop. Whatever spurs it on is fine by me because games like last night have become the norm the last 10 years, and that’s not good.

  28. alohamoke says:
    October 27, 2017 at 11:47 am
    FAKE NEWS using statistics. When you combine 2016 and 2017 NFL ratings are down 18%. Kap kneeling started last year and drop began in earnest thereafter.

    6 6 Rate This

    ——

    goodell openly cheating brady and the pats and now elliott and
    the cowboys

    creepy game fixing attempts and manipulation

  29. txmidnite says:
    October 27, 2017 at 10:57 am
    Not buying this spin at all. Fans watch NFL games based on love of the game. That love is being tested with all the SJW nonsense bleeding into the game. The Network vs cable stats are more indicative of the economy. When a household is in a financial bind, cutting the cable cord is a primary option to survive. The economy is vibrant now, so cable viewership is up. The NFL viewership is never tied to the economy. It’s ratings drop is of it’s own creation. Nice try.

    ——————-

    Two things: 1, there is no way every single person who used to watch is a huge enough fan to not be lost to another entertainment medium. We aren’t talking a 30% drop here, but just several percentages. I’m sure I’m not getting counted because I watch streams online instead of tuning into my TV.

    And 2, you are aware that with the exception of MNF cable is not required to watch any NFL games, right?

  30. For me, the Dolphins and Ravens wasn’t an interesting matchup, especially with Dolphins starting QB out. Then when the score was 20 to 0 at half, I turned it off. People are cutting the cord and some of the match ups and performances haven’t been very good.

  31. When NFL fans are watching, they won’t watch the LA Chargers because they’re not the ‘traditional’ San Diego Chargers which had certain characteristics built over time. Spanos and the NFL have thrown that out the window. When the Oakland Raiders become the Las Vegas Raiders the same will happen as will the Buffalo Bills when they become the San Antonio Bills. Thus, the NFL IS GRADUALLY RUINING THE INTEGRITY AND TRADITIONS OF THE LEAGUE!

  32. Even if the ratings are down less than they are for others, how is that an occasion to celebrate? I’ve seen popular shows ditch hosts, change formats, etc. just because despite being a solid #1 they weren’t as high as they used to be.

    Wouldn’t the NFL want to be looking for reasons to retain eyeballs, rather than celebrate the less-slow-bleed? And it’s even easier than what regular TV has to deal with, because one of the problems is discussed openly! No focus groups necessary. Regular TV would KILL for that.

  33. alohamoke says:
    October 27, 2017 at 11:47 am
    FAKE NEWS using statistics. When you combine 2016 and 2017 NFL ratings are down 18%. Kap kneeling started last year and drop began in earnest thereafter…

    This…They are down 18 percent since 2015…They can try to justify it since no one is now watching TV or so they say…But that is the bottom line…Each 10 percent reduction results in 200M in less revenue..

  34. The NFL used to be special, games on Sunday and one Monday night game. Now you have Thursday noghts and early morning London games.
    =====

    The prodcut used to be special.

    Hit the time warp, same calendar week 25 years ago, but pretend they had Thursday and London games in teh 90s.

    Thursday Night – Jets V Giants (Giants were 11-5 in ’93, Jets .500)

    London Game – Barry Sanders V Vikings
    Early Game – Dan Marino V Marty Ball
    Afternoon – Reigning MVP Steve Young V Rams
    Sunday Night – Packers V Bears (Young Favre, Sharpe and Reggie White)

    Monday Night – Defending Champ Cowboys V Eagles

    Tell me you’re not watching most of those games??..

  35. If the Pats hadn’t been playing Sunday night, I would have watched The Walking Dead & Talking Dead instead. But they were, so I dvr’d the Dead shows and watched them Monday night, instead of Monday Night Football.

    It’s funny the number of people that claim to know the exact reason for the decline, which they don’t.

    By the way, as a public service announcement….shouting FAKE NEWS is the adult equivalent of putting your hands over your ears and yelling LALALALALALALALA.

  36. People who are watching most TV programming have alternatives such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc. However, for watching the NFL, unlike most of the other major sports, there is no digital alternative. Which makes the TV ratings drop for the NFL more significant.
    ——-
    Really? So you are suggesting that people don’t flock to NFL.com or ESPN or CBS Sports.com or NBC sports.com to stream the highlights of the game they decided not to watch live?

    That is by definition an “alternative” to watching the game live. And so far those sights all offer it for free.

  37. eagle100x says:
    October 27, 2017 at 11:47 am
    People who are watching most TV programming have alternatives such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc. However, for watching the NFL, unlike most of the other major sports, there is no digital alternative. Which makes the TV ratings drop for the NFL more significant.

    ——–

    you should have googled ‘NFL Game Pass’ before commenting. oh, and CBS All Access is a streaming service that allows you to watch locally broadcast live CBS games (except on a phone)

  38. eagle100x says:
    October 27, 2017 at 11:47 am
    People who are watching most TV programming have alternatives such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc. However, for watching the NFL, unlike most of the other major sports, there is no digital alternative. Which makes the TV ratings drop for the NFL more significant.

    ——————-

    There is a digital alternative.

  39. What is causing the NFL’s declining television audiences?
    =========================================

    Is that a serious question?

  40. They can spin it any way they want.
    The kneelers and the players bad attitudes are why most of the guys at my workplace are tuning out.
    Most have have been AVID fans for their entire lives.
    Every year, it has always been all about football. Who played, what happened, good plays, bad calls.
    We all hung on every minute and play. Talked about it every day.
    Followed it closely all off season.

    Now, most of the guys could care less.
    I’ve been watching for 52 years.
    This past weekend I watched about an hour instead of all day. I skipped Monday night and Thursday.
    I’m about done. So are most of the guys at work.
    Like I said, they can spin it any way they want, but the players are killing it for us.
    AND if the owners start meeting with Kapernick, we are done for sure. REAL tired of hearing about him.

  41. The NFL’s first excuse was the election, then the weather, now — well’s nobody’s watching anything. The fact is the NFL was impervious to any ratings decline for 20 years. Now ratings have dropped 20%. College football ratings haven’t dropped? What changed for the NFL? Answer: Kaepernick.

  42. For instance, someone brought up the “Walking Dead.” Their ratings are down too to start this year, and it’s the most popular show on cable television. The point is that this isn’t an NFL problem; however, they do need to recognize that the quality of their product has suffered greatly the last few years with some of the short sighted moves made by the league office and rules committee. The worsening QB play isn’t helping either.

    Also, for the guy who said people don’t watch sports anywhere but on their TV but stream those other programs, making this an apples and oranges comparison. Hello dinosaur guy. If people are using streaming devices for shows like that, I promise you that they’re using it to regularly stream network games and use illegal streams as well. I know that I’ve used the Watch ESPN app and NBC sports to stream just because I had the Roku already tuned on and didn’t feel like switching back over to the cable feed just because. I know I’m not alone in doing this from time to time.

    So try to look at the whole picture so you don’t sound stupid, and the fact is that ratings are down for everything, including all sports programming. If this was an NFL unique problem, people trying to crowbar in some stupid political message where they claim they don’t want politics would have a point, but as usual, they don’t. Let’s just all hope the NFL fixes its bad product though because when it’s good, it’s really good, and it hasn’t been good for at least 6 or 7 years now.

Leave a Reply

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