NFL television ratings continue a downward trend in the early part of the 2017 season.
CBS’ NFL ratings are down 17 percent year over year compared to 2016. Fox’s NFL ratings are down seven percent for the first five weeks of the season year over year.
CBS’ broadcast of the Pittsburgh Steelers-Kansas City Chiefs, which went to 86% of the country, drew a 14.0 rating.
The 14.0 is the lowest for the Week 6 national window since 2006 (13.5), per Sports Business Daily.
Later in the day, NBC pulled a 10.9 for the winless Giants against the Broncos on Sunday Night Football — up 21% from Colts-Texans last year (9.0) but down 25% from Patriots-Colts in 2015 (14.6).
Michael McCarthy of the Sporting News reports average overall game audiences are off last year’s trends as well.
“The league’s average TV audience through Week 5 of the 2017 season dropped 7 percent vs. the same period of the 2016 season, according to Nielsen data obtained by Sporting News. Worse for the league, the average game audiences are down 18 percent compared to the first five weeks of the 2015 season.
The NFL’s average TV audience (including Sunday afternoon, Sunday night, Monday night and Thursday night games) slid to 15.156 million viewers through Week 5 of the 2017 season. That’s down 7.42 percent from an average of 16.371 million viewers through the same period of the 2016 season, and 18 percent down from the average of 18.438 million viewers through the first five weeks of the 2015 season.”
Partner networks ESPN, CBS Sports, NBC Sports and Fox Sports promise advertisers and sponsors certain audience numbers. If those numbers are not reached, the networks have to cough up so-called “make-goods,” or free ads, to advertisers who didn’t get their money’s worth. There’s nothing TV networks hate more.
The NFL finds itself in a “very volatile and dangerous place,” said ESPN Insider Adam Schefter on Thursday’s “Mike & Mike” morning show.
“It is very sensitive. It is chipping away at the popularity of the sport,” Schefter added. “There are people who are turned off to what’s happening. There are people canceling their DirecTV subscriptions.
“The business of the game, by the way, also affects the players. Because for every dollar that the league is collecting, 48 cents go to the players.”
Wall Street firm Credit Suisse lowered its price target and earnings per share forecasts for Twenty-First Century Fox’s media company, citing Fox’s poor Sunday NFL ratings.
“We expect third-quarter network advertising to decline 3 percent (previously +1 percent), driven by soft ratings for both the summer schedule and for the start of the NFL season,” analyst Omar Sheikh said, according to CNBC. “With only one of the three content licensing deals we expected for the second half announced in third quarter, we also expect content licensing revenue growth to be skewed to the fourth quarter.”
Why are NFL ratings in decline? The “Colin Kaepernick Effect,” with players taking a knee for the national anthem, is certainly one of several possible factors in dampening the NFL’s TV numbers.
President Trump has been railing on the league to “respect the flag” on social media.
…NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2017
Natural disasters such as Hurricane Irma have increased competition for eyeballs from cable news as did the the Oct. 1 massacre in Las Vegas.
There is also a narrative among some NFL experts, like SI’s Peter King, that the level of play has been mediocre so far this season.
Of the 32 NFL teams:
* None is unbeaten.
* Two have one loss.
* 27 have two, three or four wins.
* Few are legit hopeless. Three have zero or one win.
NFL 2017: A gigantic mishmash of mediocrity!
Some analysts warn not to overreact to the NFL’s ratings dip.
This is total nonsense. A 7% YOY drop is immaterial when you’re talking about the highest-rated programming on TV. https://t.co/QjYQr3GHGF
— Anthony Crupi (@crupicrupicrupi) October 13, 2017
ESPN’s Monday Night Football is up five percent overall, though it did have a season-low rating for Monday’s Colts-Titans game.
The 6.1 overnight rating for the Titans’ 36-22 win over the Colts marked the third-lowest “MNF” overnight since the network acquired rights to the package prior to the 2006 season.
The crowd pushing the NFL is dead should hold off for at least a week. CBS and NBC were both up Sunday in ratings vs. 2016 equivalent.
— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) October 16, 2017
While ratings are down overall, it’s important to keep in mind the NFL still draws a massive audience.
For the week of October 2, four of the Top 10 shows on television were NFL-related according to Nielsen.
The NFL’s ratings dip is among the topics being discussed at scheduled owner’s meetings in New York City this week.
New from the NFL and NFLPA pic.twitter.com/lMQMhlDGAB
— Brian McCarthy (@NFLprguy) October 17, 2017
The NFL is seeking a compromise with the player’s union on controversial anthem protests that have caused some fans to turn off games and become a talking point of President Trump.
Contact Brent Axe: Email | Twitter
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