Statistics of NFL Viewership Ratings- Online Exclusive
To many Americans, football is the quintessential American sport, overshadowing baseball. Football is an indelible part of American culture, with most American’s following the sport. However, despite football once being the most watched sport in America, NFL viewership has slowly been on the decline as of late.
The Wall Street Journal reports that NFL ratings declined by 8% this last season. The dip in ratings was most evident during the beginning of the season, with ratings dropping 14% from September through November. There was a slight increase after the election (I suppose people were trying to distract themselves from a controversial result) but ratings dropped quickly after that.
This drop is a continuation of a steady decline in NFL ratings that began to emerge in the last few years. Sunday Night Football, once a staple of NFL viewership, dropped 10% in ratings since 2015. Monday Night Football took a similar dip with a 12% drop in ratings.
This raises the question, why are people watching less football than before? Analysts have pointed to a few factors, the most prevalent being concern for player safety, mismanagement by the league and owners and a lack of any compelling storylines.
The fear of concussions and deaths due to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, also known as CTE, a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated blows to the head found in deceased former NFL players, has caused people to worry that the NFL is not doing enough to protect its players. Football has always been a violent sport, but the increased awareness of concussions and CTE has caused people to tune out and watch other less violent sports. This is also shown in the drop in participation of youth football, as parents grow concerned of their children’s well being.
Others argue that the NFL and the team owners have mismanaged the league and their teams. Recent crack downs on touchdown celebrations by the NFL have received criticism, and some have begun to call the NFL the “No Fun League” because of this. Additionally, the recent move of the St. Louis Rams back to Los Angeles, the San Diego Chargers leaving, and the possibility of the Oakland Raiders moving to Las Vegas have earned condemnation from fans, who believe that the owners have betrayed them.
A minority have also argued that the NFL lacks any compelling storylines to watch. Many have complained of a lackluster season compared to the past few drama filled NBA seasons that saw Lebron James finally bring a championship to Cleveland against the rival Golden State Warriors and superstar Kevin Durant leave the Oklahoma City Thunder in a widely condemned move in free agency to Golden State. In comparable storyline from the NFL was the historic comeback of the New England Patriots against the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl.
Speaking of the Big Game, the heavy commercialization of the Super Bowl may also be responsible for the decline in viewership. Despite being known for its commercials, this year’s game went overboard with the amount of commercials and sponsors. Seeing “Goodyear presents: the Pepsi Update of the Game, brought to you by Papa Johns, sponsored by Taco Bell” is not a good look for the NFL.