There has been a lot of talk about television ratings for the NFL over the past year. This conversation has been very much over hyped because people would like to use it fit whatever agenda they are pushing. Yes, the ratings are showing a little slippage, but it is not as drastic as people some would like you to believe. So maybe we need somebody to put it all in perspective, so I decided to take a crack at it.
First let’s take a look the numbers when it comes to television ratings and their arbitrary nature. We really don’t have the greatest grasp of how these things are calculated. Some of us think that you turn to channel 2 and you counted. That’s what I thought for a long time but no you are not counted because you are probably not a part of a Nielsen household. Which how many of you have ever met someone is part of one of these families? Not saying they don’t exist but these people don’t seem to be too available.
Although the way we tabulate the numbers is questionable we are going to use the Nielsen system’s results to show how this ratings drop is overblown. Just based on the week that ended on October 23rd the number 8 broadcast in primetime programming on Broadcast Networks was the NFL Sunday Night game. Doesn’t blow the mind until you notice that 6 of the programs ahead of it were World Series games and pregame show that week. The number 1 cable program that week was a game between the Eagles and Redskins. Also making the top 10 was a Thursday Night game between Cleveland and Minnesota.
The drop off in ratings has been noticeable but in some weeks the viewership has went up against games in the same time slot last year. Using numbers from Sports Media Watch in a side by side comparison you may only see a single digit difference in the percentage of people watching. The NFL like all corporations are slaves to growth, businesses always feel like they should be expanding. So any reduction no matter how small can be seen as reason for panic.
Of course, the main topic for the perceived lesser eyeballs on the product is the kneeling during the anthem. Don’t get me wrong I understand that people are mad about the kneeling and everything it represents but that isn’t enough get a lot of people to truly stop watching football. Also, most of the people who are not watching for that reason would totally dismiss the idea of people who are not watching because Kapernick does not have a job. Trust and believe that has cost the brand some viewers.
One of the things that contributes in the variance of in the numbers is there is way too much competition for your entertainment. The days of a few channels are over and now add in the streaming services and that Sunday provides a lot more options. Just as the NFL is seeing slippage in ratings all of network television is down. The NFL also hasn’t factored in them over-saturating themselves. With football coming on everything Thursday, Sunday and Monday it’s not as special as it used to be. Also getting all the games on TV it also overexposes the product. It was more of an event when football was just on Sunday and the Monday Night game.
The league also has to look at the on the field product itself. Some of the games that were slated for prime national spots turned up to be stinkers. The injuries cannot help this season either. Because the nature of football we expect people to be out but this is one of the season’s where a lot of top stars are out for the rest of the season. Was David Johnson your favorite running back, or Odell Beckham your go to wide out and what about Aaron Rodgers. These injuries have drastically affected teams that we thought would be good and probably has curbed some of the interest for their respective fanbases. That is also only the tipping point of catastrophic injuries.
The bottom line is that there are a lot of factors to why football isn’t expanding on their already massive market share. Football is doing fine, just like earlier we mentioned that the World Series held the top 5 ratings spots over the course of a week on broadcast television. I bet a lot think their popularity is suffering too. Just understand you being mad about players protesting will not cripple the league or is the start to the revolution. But a hey a drop in fans watching, no matter how small can create some content and it seems like people fall for it.
Keith B. Holt
Follow on Twitter @Kholtjr