Media executives are rallying around an explanation for the National Football League’s declining TV ratings: too much football available in too many places. Total NFL ratings through the first seven weeks have declined 5% compared with last year and about 15% versus the same stretch in 2015, which was a very strong season for the League.
The League’s aggressive media strategy in recent years has led to a flurry of new offerings: an increase of Thursday night games; games available on Verizon mobile phones and Amazon’s streaming service; highlights on the NFL-owned cable channel RedZone and social-media platforms; and full-game replays on an NFL subscription service called GamePass. The fear among TV executives is that this has backfired, devaluing the programming.
Another theory is that the controversy over players protesting during the national anthem has turned off viewers. Yet there is no evidence of a significant red-state boycott, according to data compiled for the The Wall Street Journal by measurement firm Samba TV, which analyzes data from 13.5 million smart TVs across the country. Through seven weeks, the share of TVs tuning in to NFL games was down 8.7% on average in the “red states”, while in “blue states” viewing was down 10%. “The anthem protests have been less a factor than some people have claimed,” said Michael Mulvihill, EVP of Research at Fox.
Joe Flint, Alexandra Bruell, and Amol Sharma. Overexposure, Not Anthem Protests, Blamed for NFL’s Ratings Woes. The Wall Street Journal.