When FOX CEO James Murdoch blamed the decline in NFL ratings on oversaturation from products like Thursday Night Football, the NFL responded in part by targeting the messenger not the message, given that FOX doesn’t broadcast Thursday night games. That approach won’t apply this time around.
CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus has attributed the ratings decline to oversaturation as well, specifially citing the Thursday product that his network carries.
“I do think it’s clear that adding 10 games to the Thursday night package and two additional Sunday morning London games has clearly diluted the Sunday afternoon packages and affected the ratings,” McManus told the Wall Street Journal, via AwfulAnnouncing.com. “It’s just simple mathematics.”
As Alex Putterman of AwfulAnnouncing.com points out, McManus had a different take in early 2016, as the league was expandeing its TV offerings.
“Whenever the NFL adds programming, the appetite seems to be there from fans, and the ratings keep getting better,” McManus said at the time. “We had our highest-rated AFC championship game in 29 years. So there doesn’t seem to be a lessening of interest on the part of fans and viewers. I think Thursday night is going to continue, we’re going to continue to improve the ratings, and it’s going to continue to be a really valuable franchise and a real viewing destination for viewers, for fans.”
Then came the decline, which was believed to be sparked by the election in 2016 and which may be the result of various factors in 2017. Regardless, the comments from McManus call into question whether CBS even wants to continue to broadcast Thursday Night Football, which the NFL currently awards on a year-to-year basis, in 2018.