Recently headlines have been popping up about the NFL’s TV ratings dropping. This of course led some to believe that the ratings drop is directly correlated to the recent National Anthem protests done by several NFL players. But before we all start believing the hype let’s take a look at the numbers.
Wayne Friedman of Media Post reported yesterday that NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” fell 14% with only 23.1 million viewers for the opening game of New England v. Arizona. Week 2 they fell another 14% with only 22.8 million viewers tuning int for the Green Bay v. Minnesota. Again in Week 3 another 7% lose with only 20.6 million tuning in for the Chicago v. Dallas game.
In that same article Friedman reported that ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” lost 4% of viewers only recording 13 million viewers tuning in for Pittsburgh v. Washington and lost another 28% of viewers with only 10.3 million people tuning into Los Angeles v. San Francisco game.
Alright so why are these two nights not meeting the ratings of seasons past? Does it really have to do with the recent uptick in headlines about NFL players protests? Or is there maybe a completely rational argument for that drop?
First, let’s look at SNF’s ratings. Week 1’s ratings fell that first Sunday purely because of the lack of Tom Brady. Sure, the game was great because it came down to the wire with the Patriots taking the W, but there was no other star power. Tom Brady brings in ratings because he’s a great player who can at times make plays out of thin air that are spectacular to watch. Week 2’s match up between GB and Minn is a local grudge match, so those in other parts of the country aren’t that invested in who will win like they are in Green Bay, Minnesota, or even Chicago or Detroit. Cowboys and Bears game is just a really poor match up, there’s no Tony Romo or Jay Cutler and the two teams are not that great in past seasons to make people tune in to watch.
The same goes for ESPN’s Monday Night Football. The match ups have not been so great that viewers feel the intense desire to tune in, Pittsburgh v. Washington is the better match up and ESPN also had the allure of watching the new play-by-play announcer to get people to tune in. More viewers would have tuned into the LA v. SF game is both teams were actually decent. I mean it took until Week 3 for LA to actually score a touchdown.
Notice how I did not bring up Week 3’s Monday Night Football ratings because that game was going up against the first Presidential Debate of the Campaign so it wouldn’t matter if Tom Brady was taking on the Giants for the Super Bowl again the ratings would have been down.
So I don’t you can say there’s a reason to be concerned over the recent decline in NFL ratings because it’s only been three weeks of action, nor can you say that these ratings slumps have anything to do with recent protests. These ratings are due completely to lack of star power (Brady’s suspension, Peyton Manning Retired) and the complete lack of great match ups. Let’s revisit this discussion on thirteen weeks when teams need every single game to make it to the playoffs.