NFL has told teams not to worry about lower ratings

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The days of Happy Days have long since ended. But even as live TV viewership continues to dramatically decline, the NFL continues to rule the landscape.

That’s the message that was sent, essentially, by the league office to teams that are fretting about reduced ratings.

John Ourand of Sports Business Journal reports that Brian Rolapp, who runs the league’s media operation, sent a memo to all teams on September 25 aimed at reducing their anxiety about an early-season dip in viewership.

“The 2020 presidential election and other national news events are driving substantial consumption of cable news, taking meaningful share of audience from all other programming,” Rolapp wrote, via Ourand. “Historically, NFL viewership has declined in each of the past six presidential elections.”

NFL ratings took a major hit during the 2016 election, with a 14-percent drop. After the election, the numbers were flat in comparison to the prior year.

This year, the COVID-19 situation also has become a factor. With the NBA and NHL pushing their seasons into September, the NFL faced more competition.

“The pandemic has caused several major sports to postpone their schedules, resulting in an unprecedented fall calendar,” Rolapp wrote, according to Ourand. “The result is a crowded content marketplace driving a bifurcation of sports viewers across multiple events.”

Again, Rolapp is right. Beyond the constant fracturing of an audience that once crowded around a TV that had three or four channels (PBS didn’t really count), people now watch whatever they want, whenever they want, however they want.

In the ’70s, American life revolved around the evening TV schedule; we had once chance (pending “re-runs” weeks if not months later) to see a show. If you showed up at 8:10 p.m. ET, you missed 10 minutes of Fonzi and Richie and Potsy and Ralph Malph and the various other out-of-the-blue collateral characters (including Laverne, Shirley, and Mork from Ork) that launched other successful spin-off series.

Today, the entire world operates on-demand. While that reduces the numbers for all television content (except cable news), it underscores the value of properties that can gather a large, live audience.

The NFL continues to be the one thing that does it better than anything else. Thus, Rolapp’s message to teams was simple: Don’t panic, even though through two weeks the ratings had dropped by six percent.

And to those who will respond to this item by chanting “go woke, go broke” or whatever other catchphrase is currently being used by those who want politics out of sports while simultaneously injecting their own politics into sports, that’s a tired and inaccurate take.

Some continue to huff and puff, but nobody is blowing the NFL’s house down. The best games continue to generate huge ratings, despite the national turmoil we continue to endure in multiple different ways. While politics generally will reduce viewership until the election is resolved (and that may not happen on November 3), political statements or gestures or leanings of players, coaches, owners, etc. aren’t hurting the NFL.

62 responses to “NFL has told teams not to worry about lower ratings

  1. And let’s not forget that millions are still out of work and/or struggling financially. Cable and satellite services are expensive luxuries, and even streaming services aren’t cheap anymore if you want sports programming.

  2. Called DirecTv to cancel my Sunday Ticket this year…5 minutes later they were offering it to me for free. Yeah…they are worried.

  3. Good information. The media professionals at the NFL and elsewhere have a much clearer take on our media habits than the casual observer.

  4. political statements or gestures or leanings of players, coaches, owners, etc. aren’t hurting the NFL.
    ——
    They aren’t helping.

  5. Despite the fact that practically no players are protesting during the anthem, and the broadcasts are paying absolutely no attention to any calls for social justice, the fake outrage people will continue to associate kneeling with any slight ratings decline. Of course, these are the same brilliant people who claimed that there would be massive boycotts four years ago and that the NFL would be in massive decline by 2020.

  6. No one watches NASCAR anymore and the NHL ratings haven’t gone up, so this is no biggy. If you’re one of those people who live in a bubble and watch Fox news 24-7, no one cares what you think anyway.

  7. “And to those who will respond to this item by chanting “go woke, go broke” or whatever other catchphrase is currently being used by those who want politics out of sports while simultaneously injecting their own politics into sports, that’s a tired and inaccurate take.”

    Can you be anymore petty, Mikey?

  8. There are a number of former NFL fans that have sold their PSL’s and now refuse to even watch the NFL on TV.

    Just got the check for my PSL’S yesterday and haven’t watched a second of any NFL game this year.

    I’m now watching my NASCAR races live instead of dvring them. Later in the season I’ll be watching and attending NHL games live.

    I’ve been to both an NFL game and an NHL game in the same day before, and have frequently had an NHL game on Saturday followed by an NFL game on Sunday.

    Not anymore.

  9. I’ve been finding the games boring this year personally and haven’t watched a single one in its entirety.

    I know some people like all of the extra scoring, but just about every game I watch feels like arena football or basketball now. The only suspense on most drives is whether it will be a touchdown or field goal. You might as well just tune in at the end to see who has the ball last.

  10. The NFL has been breaking their own revenue records every year, and that’s going to continue. People consume NFL games in a lot of different ways these days. Not just on TV. But the bottom line is the bottom line, and they’re printing money.

  11. The Presidential election keeps people from watching NFL games on free over the air TV on Sundays at 1 and 4 in the East. Sure.

  12. patrickmahomesblockedme says:
    We all know why the ratings are down. It is not a mystery.
    ——
    Exactly, a lot of people are cutting the cord. And local television stations are charging a ton for online access.

  13. Go woke; go broke is as true today as it was in 2016 and every other year. The more these entitled millionaires who believe they are oppressed open their moths, the less people will tune in….fact.

  14. It was be intresting to see who watches the NFL by age group. I would venture to guess the older tier 50+ are tuning out ,while the younger folks are in for the betting and FF. Regardless I would expect to see the NFL continue its decline.

  15. The NFL is trying to tell fans what to think and how to behave instead of listening to what they want. I’m no expert, but I prefer my preaching to come from the pulpit.

  16. Nobody outside of yokelville stopped watching football because of players speaking out on racism. Ignore these morons.

  17. Lets all be real. The Not For Long league blew it big time. Ratings are down because you politicized football. Blame yourselves not the public.

  18. The more these entitled millionaires who believe they are oppressed open their moths, the less people will tune in….fact
    —–
    I’m not sure the players themselves feel they’re oppressed, I believe they’re trying to speak for the people who are actually oppressed, but have no voice.

  19. Just got the check for my PSL’S yesterday and haven’t watched a second of any NFL game this year.
    —–
    Well, since you’re a Viking fan I’d say that’s not a very big sacrifice this year.

    I still find it sad that you would rather give up things that bring you happiness rather than trying to accept and/or understand another person’s point of view.

  20. They are a billion dollar operation, so they will survive.

    Yes, some fans are tuning out, but the NFL has so many revenue streams that they are not really losing sleep.

    The people all triggered by the actions of millionaires who play for billionaires have little to no impact on their bottom line.

    It will just give the NFL other options for places to market their product.

  21. The owners will worry when the next TV contract is up and their ratings are down. Dosent take a rocket scientist to figure out that the cap will be going down also. These athletes need to remember they are entertainers, not good business to alienate the people that help pay your excellent salaries.

  22. “The NFL is trying to tell fans what to think and how to behave instead of listening to what they want. I’m no expert, but I prefer my preaching to come from the pulpit.”
    _____________

    The NFL is delivering a message of love and respect for all people, regardless of race, gender, or national origin. If you disagree with that message I have to question what you are hearing from the pulpit.

  23. We all know why. It’s because of the politics. The Washington Redskins never should have changed their name, no one wants to see cringeworthy messages in the end zones on these fields, the bogus commercials about needing inclusion are hysterical, and they are putting the wrong people on those helmets. To top it off, this league still has too many commercials and a lot of bad calls.

  24. And hopefully come January, we will have a new President that has more important things to do than demonize the NFL.

  25. “Go woke; go broke is as true today as it was in 2016 and every other year. The more these entitled millionaires who believe they are oppressed open their moths, the less people will tune in….fact.”
    ______________

    There is not a single business that has gone broke by going woke, not one. I challenge you to identify a single one.

    Parroting a supposedly catchy phrase doesn’t make the content of that phrase true.

  26. Am I the only one who is tuning into an NFL broadcast and sees…a football game?

    Not sure where people are seeing protests, players not standing for the anthem, etc. That doesn’t seem to be shown on tv. Not sure what the issue is to people who are complaining about those things.

    I’m seeing football, and it’s been entertaining.

  27. “And to those who will respond to this item by chanting “go woke, go broke” or whatever other catchphrase is currently being used by those who want politics out of sports while simultaneously injecting their own politics into sports, that’s a tired and inaccurate take.”

    Sure. Keep telling yourself that. You really cannot believe the NFL’s spin that somehow cable news is eating their lunch. Or that the NHL and NBA (each with equally abysmal ratings) is taking the NFL’s audience. Or that people only discovered streaming media in the last 9 months.

  28. “Just got the check for my PSL’S yesterday and haven’t watched a second of any NFL game this year.
    —–
    Well, since you’re a Viking fan I’d say that’s not a very big sacrifice this year.

    I still find it sad that you would rather give up things that bring you happiness rather than trying to accept and/or understand another person’s point of view.”
    ________________

    He didn’t sell his PSL’s. He never had any, couldn’t afford them.

    As to his claim of not watching a game that’s interesting, because he is here every week commenting about what he saw during the Vikings and Packers games.

  29. gibson45 says:
    October 6, 2020 at 12:20 pm
    “Go woke; go broke is as true today as it was in 2016 and every other year. The more these entitled millionaires who believe they are oppressed open their moths, the less people will tune in….fact.”
    ______________

    There is not a single business that has gone broke by going woke, not one. I challenge you to identify a single one.

    Parroting a supposedly catchy phrase doesn’t make the content of that phrase true.

    Kathy Griffin got woke and her career has gone down the tubes.

  30. Truth right here! With all these sports going at the same time my significant other just won’t let me watch everything. NBA, NFL, MLB then we gotta have time to watch our regular shows. My DVR is on overdrive! Just can’t see it all but grateful it’s available!

  31. 33yy

    Not sure where people are seeing protests, players not standing for the anthem, etc.
    ###

    I was already struggling with the decision to sell my PSL’S prior to the first game of the season with all the SJW that was being promoted by the NFL.

    As a season ticket holder, I was glad that our governor had made it impossible to attend the season opener as is my norm.

    Had I been there, I would have been forced to watch 6 players kneel and the family of George Floyd “honored” before the kickoff.

    I listed my PSL’s for sale the following Monday.

    So despite the author’s claim that I have a “tired and inaccurate take”, I think his take is the inaccurate one.

    His preaching on SJW issues is very tiring and has reduced the viability of this site.

  32. I’m glad. I have been silent protesting the NFL for years because they do not care about women at all (change my mind). I watch one game a week (with my sons and I cannot/will not give that up). I used to watch every game but no more. I will not allow the NFL channel on my TV, do not buy NFL endorsed products. It’s not hard as I have experience, I gave up the NFL from 1984 to 1999.

  33. gibson45

    He didn’t sell his PSL’s. He never had any, couldn’t afford them.

    As to his claim of not watching a game that’s interesting, because he is here every week commenting about what he saw during the Vikings and Packers games.
    ###

    Really.

    Find even 1 post from me in the last two months other than in this thread.

    Go back to the opening weekend’s stories on the Packer/Vikings game and find a post from me.

    You won’t.

    As to affording PSL’S, I made over 5 times what my 2 PSL’s sold for in the stock market yesterday.

    Depositing that check into my checking account didn’t even increase my balance by 10%.

    Is it possible to be any more inaccurate in posting than you are?

  34. Someone is WAY more than a little defensive about losing advertising revenue. Spin the narrative to save your own hide. Then accuse the other side of the same. Priceless and hollow.

  35. My viewership is down for a couple of reasons:
    1. I cut the cord and my aerial antenna is iffy. Not that they typically show my team in my region. I don’t want to pay for game pass.
    2. I’m feeling increasingly out of touch with the players and the teams due to the amount of money they are making. I’m supposed to contribute to the livelihood of a guy on a $100 mil contract or an owner of a $5 Billion stadium?
    3. New uniforms for every team every few years. The NFL seems to view me as a $$$ sign.
    4. I’m finding there are a lot of interesting things to do on Sunday which doesn’t involve a screen. I’ll catch up on the high lights later.
    5. Uneven application of rules and poor officiating. It’s unsettling to me that the NFL plays favorites.
    6. The NFL vs the NFLPA. Again, it’s my money you’re fighting over. So you shall have none of it.

  36. patrickmahomesblockedme says:
    October 6, 2020 at 12:47 pm

    Kathy Griffin got woke and her career has gone down the tubes.
    —————————————————————

    On the flip side, a decidedly-not-so-woke Roseanne Barr has watched her career go down the tubes. In other words, you really don’t have a point. Kathy was never an impressive celebrity to start with.

  37. “As to affording PSL’S, I made over 5 times what my 2 PSL’s sold for in the stock market yesterday.

    Depositing that check into my checking account didn’t even increase my balance by 10%.

    Is it possible to be any more inaccurate in posting than you are?”
    ____________

    And that, my friends, is the internet.

  38. NFL is and will be king of viewership of all things. Ratings are down across the board and it is because there is so much on. I don’t want the political stuff but I did turn off the Sunday night football game because of the pitiful match up and watched the NBA finals game. Markets that have playoffs going on in sports that don’t normal will watch their cities compete in the playoffs. Why people chortle over this stuff is beyond me.

  39. 52crabcakes says:
    October 6, 2020 at 12:57 pm
    I’m glad. I have been silent protesting the NFL for years because they do not care about women at all (change my mind). I watch one game a week (with my sons and I cannot/will not give that up). I used to watch every game but no more. I will not allow the NFL channel on my TV, do not buy NFL endorsed products. It’s not hard as I have experience, I gave up the NFL from 1984 to 1999.

    —————–

    Hard time believing someone spends their spare time commenting on an NFL site isn’t doing more. Sorry but your comment here tells a different story.

  40. 1. Since there are no or limited fans at the games each week, that’s about 1 million extra football fans at home who are watching and the ratings are still much lower.

    2. Because of the lockdowns, there is a lot less to go and do outside the house, so there are more people at home on the weekends and the ratings are still much lower.

    3. There is not much other sport competition. NHL is over. NBA is in the finals. Those games last about 2 hours. MLB did not have one playoff game over the weekend to conflict with NFL games and the ratings are still much lower.

    The NFL should have an increase in ratings this year with Covid, but its the exact opposite. Many people do not want to be lectured on politics by people who could not get a degree from a University after spending 5 years there, taking the weakest course load possible, with a team of tutors to help them.

  41. ““go woke, go broke” or whatever other catchphrase is currently being used by those who want politics out of sports while simultaneously injecting their own politics into sports, that’s a tired and inaccurate take.”
    ______________________

    First of all, the only people “chanting” at all are the SJWs. They can’t seem to get enough of it while the rest of us have heard entirely too much of it.

    Second, the only “tired take” is the one that insists that kneeling during the anthem is not disrespectful to the country or to our veterans and active military. THAT one is about as ludicrous as it gets.

    But as far as the NFL losing money over its full-on SJW grovelling, there’s evidence for that. Right here in your own forum if nowhere else, Mike. So don’t tell us it’s “inaccurate” when people are telling you right here that it’s not.

  42. I hope this year has been a massive wake up call to Hollywood and professional sports leagues, showing that the rest of the world doesn’t revolve around them. This could become the new trend. Generation Z would much rather play football video games or play the sport themselves than watch the games live these days. I would know because I am barely categorized as a millennial myself.

  43. But as far as the NFL losing money over its full-on SJW grovelling, there’s evidence for that. Right here in your own forum if nowhere else, Mike. So don’t tell us it’s “inaccurate” when people are telling you right here that it’s not.
    —–
    Well, the fact that those people ARE here, reading a football website and posting in the comment sections kind of contradicts your point.

    What’s more concerning is your contempt for any point of view other than your own. The idea that you equate people asking for help to prevent their race from being killed with “sjw groveling” is a bit sickening.

  44. gibson45

    And that, my friends, is the internet.
    ###

    Just because you read it on internet doesn’t mean it’s true, but it also doesn’t mean it’s false.

    You puffed out your chest and boldly posted about me posting on here when anyone here can easily tell you were lying.

    So why should they believe you when you claim I couldn’t afford a PSL in the same post?

    What I posted about my PSL’s was true.

    Now go spew your pablum somewhere else, little boy…

  45. I think they do not know the pulse of the fan base, Tired of the game as it is today, slow, to much about other things than the game itself. People are tired of being forced fed the thoughts of the NFL and its players.

  46. Did they happen to notice that 2016 was also the year Colin Kaepernick and the rest began the kneeling fiasco? They tried to blame that on the election, too.

    Amazing how they think they can just ignore their fans and it will all go away. NO LONGER! I unsubscribed to all Browns contact last summer after Baker Mayfield announced his intention to kneel (see how that lasted). I haven’t watched one minute of NFL this year and never will again.

  47. And let’s not forget that millions are still out of work and/or struggling financially. Cable and satellite services are expensive luxuries, and even streaming services aren’t cheap anymore if you want sports programming.

    >Most NFL games are available over free local airwaves. You don;t have to have cable or streaming services to watch them.

  48. Florio with the spin, we all know if the league has sent a memo to teams on the issue, then there was concern from the teams and there is an issue.

    Like many others have stated, more people should be at home right now and the ratings should be through the roof if there were not an issue. However, there is. The excuse of news ratings and other sports interfering is as broken as your reasoning in viewership decline not pertaining to “Get Woke, Get Broke”. The truth is many people have walked away from the game and other sports during the perfect storm, no sports for months during the covid beginnings in the country while finding other options to spend their day. Then throw in the politics and statements made by the leagues, owners, and players, well here we are.

    Its not that the players are making a statement, its how they choose to make that statement and some players have been as outspoken to say things that totally isolate one entire group of fans and even their existence. Some of these statements fans can not unhear and can not support, leaving the sport behind because of so.

    It’s is most likely a good thing that fans can not fully attend any sporting events this year, especially the NFL, for there may be many more questions that would need answering and sports writers to try to cover for, resulting from the empty seats in the stadiums.

    However, Im sure the spin would include they were home social distancing not attending live games due to the virus, but why would the television ratings still be down if that were so and why were they not watching at home again ? Spin……….

  49. What a joke. I have known the NFL management and they are in denial.

    Fans are fed up with the political bs. The primary donna players that are an embarrassment.

    Then you have the cost. 150 per ticket. 50 for parking. Any wonder people bought big screen TV’s. Now they stopped tuning in.

  50. less viewers means the nfl owners will be able to chop payroll and salaries by 50% or more come next bargaining agreement. the owners are smarter than their hypocrite employee’s are.

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