Heller: Why NFL ratings are declining

NFL referee during an NFL game. Photo courtesy of pixabay.com user "KeithJJ"

The NFL is in a bit of a sticky situation at the moment. Their television ratings have been in a rather serious decline in the past few years with no serious solution in sight. Even with all of the money that is coming in from guaranteed broadcasting contracts, this still is a concern to the league. If people aren’t watching them, then the money bubble is doomed to burst. It’s something the NFL is attempting to fix with new cutting edge ideas like SkyCam, that provide new opportunities for viewership. The NFL’s ratings have been declining for many reasons. Spoiler Alert: it’s not due to any alleged boycotts. The people taking part in these actions either don’t watch football or are already jaded with the sport and needed an excuse to stop watching.

The first reason: extreme over-saturation of the sport. Look anywhere on television or radio and you are bound to hear something related to the game. It has gotten so jammed into our faces that we’ve just become burnt out. It was really brought to light with the creation of Thursday Night Football and with the combination of college and high school athletics, equaling five straight days of football and that’s not getting into the media exposure. Everywhere you look it’s football, football, football. Why bother watching when you can just hear about it later.

This also plays into the fact that the ways we consume media is drastically different from the past decade. Swarms of people have chosen to cut the cable cord and relocate their streaming services to places like Amazon or Netflix. In layman’s terms this isn’t an NFL problem, it’s a problem plaguing the medium of television. Look everywhere and there is a massive dilemma of what to do about it. The NFL situation is a tad different. The main issue for them is the fact that people are tuning out full games for highlight reels you’ll see on NFL Redzone or on their YouTube channel. Time is now money.

NFL Redzone isn’t the only thing hurting the NFL, it’s also fantasy football. It has blown up exponentially for over the past 15 years and it has all but changed how people look at games anymore. No longer do we root for our teams but we’ve become a legion of stat-watchers. Fantasy football has become a bigger business than the game in some instances.

It also doesn’t help the fact that the quality in play has become absolutely terrible as of late. To be fair some of the blame is due to some of the league’s elite talent dropping like flies due to injury, but even then the team pairing has just been awful. With the exception of the playoffs, there hasn’t been any competitive games this season. They’ve either have been total blowouts or absolute slog-fests filled with boring gameplay up until the very end. This is especially the case with the AFC. If your quarterback isn’t named Brady, Roethelisberger, or Manning you have next to no chance in making it to the playoffs or the Super Bowl. The NFC is better in pairing but only because of the new wave talent coming in. However who’s to say the likes of Newton, Wentz or any other quarterback for that matter might dominate the division in the coming years.

It’s a double edge sword really, but in all honesty people are just tired of the nonsense. Over the past few years the NFL has been a public relations agent’s nightmare. So many foolish profit driven decisions have revealed the league to be nothing but an entity that does not care about the driving force, its people. Absolutely embarrassing situations like how they handled Ray Rice, the DeflateGate debacle, and the subsequent handling of Ezekiel Elliott’s allegations. The way the NFL has preached about player safety, yet want to expand the league schedule by two games and only allow players three days rest. Look how greedily owners have completely strong arm their cities into either paying hundreds of millions of dollars into a new stadium or just leave for newer cities willing to pay for it. Cities like St. Louis, and Oakland have all but lost faith in the NFL and honestly who blames them.

People have responded by turning the TVs off on Sundays. Regardless, the ratings declining isn’t entirely the NFL’s fault. Even if the games were good, even if the NFL handled their company well, their ratings would still be falling. We’re in the midst of another major shift in entertainment. It has become easier for people to view stuff online and it’s up to the big boys figure this out. The NFL has already been in talks with many streaming services such as Verizon, Yahoo and Amazon but they know that time is of the essence. It’s not like the NFL will be gone, at this point it’s too big to fail. However, do they adapt or do they fade away?

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  1. Hmm, seems like a another BS attempt to deflect attention from the NFL National Anthem protests. “UBS Survey: Anthem Protests Top Reasons for NFL Ratings Declines” (Broadcastingcable.com), and “NFL Ratings Slide 10%, Anthem Protests Cited” (Mediapost.com), and “UBS survey: NFL player protests were top reason people watched less NFL” (Yahoo Finance) – just to name a few. You know, I am seeing this narrative a lot – “gentle” disregard for those of us who have, by CHOICE, divorced ourselves from the NFL due to the NATIONAL ANTHEM protests. I am REALLY looking forward to the damage that the NFLPA is going to do in the upcoming years. I really believe that with their BS antics, the players and the NFLPA can and will destroy the league. “Burn down the Mission”, I say. Burn, baby, burn. This BS league needs take it’s place on the trash heap of history. The hell with the NFL.