It appears that protests and politics are not ratings enhancers when it comes to getting people to watch football: as of Week 6, the NFL’s ratings have plummeted precipitously and nearly all the way across the board as fans continue to switch the TV off instead of viewing National Anthem protests.
“Twenty-five of 31 teams (excluding the Charges, because of the move) are drawing lower local numbers than they did in 2016,” Sports Illustrated reported. “Nineteen have dropped 5 percent or more, including brand name teams like the Cowboys (7 percent drop), Patriots (8 percent) and Steelers (6 percent), and both New York clubs (the Giants are down 7 percent, the Jets are down 37 percent).”
The news remains grim for all but a handful of clubs: “Conversely, only three teams (Chiefs, Bucs, Lions) have improved by more than 5 percent.”
Compared to the 2016 season, Week 6 saw just north of 15 million viewers tune in, a plunge of 8.2 percent. Going back one year further, when 18.5 million viewers tuned in during the same week, the plunge is a more dramatic 18.7 percent. It is unclear how much online viewing, which has grown, has absorbed viewers who would have watched the games on TV in the past.
Some NFL owners are hesitant to blame the sliding ratings on National Anthem protests (or even address the ratings kerfuffle at all). Giants owner John Mara, however, says “there’s no question” that although the protests are not good for the numbers, they’re important in a different way.
“But this is an important social issue,” he opined. “And sometimes you have to put the interests of the business behind the interest of issues that are more important than that.”
The guys in corporate might have a different take on the matter. Credit Suisse issued a warning to CBS that the network’s dropping ratings could slice its earnings by as much as five percent. Other networks reportedly stand to lose billions of dollars in NFL advertising earnings if the trend continues.