Back in June, I wrote a column discussing what would happen with the TV ratings for the NFL after the league made a pledge to back their players in the fight against racial injustice. Week 1 wasn’t a promising start as ratings took a big hit across the board mostly.
If you are on social media or follow the news, you will see some mixed discussions regarding the ratings of the NFL. Unfortunately, you will see many broad brush strokes regarding the ratings. Allow me to paint the full picture of the NFL TV ratings.
The Saints and Buccaneers game blew the ratings out of the water. People tuned in to see two of the five best (Tom Brady and Drew Brees) QBs to ever play in the NFL go head to head. The game was strategically placed in the national window for FOX and carried 25.8 million viewers. That game saw an 8% increase in viewership compared to last year’s contest between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants in the same window.
FOX’s regional coverage spiked 7% for opening week compared to last season. That is the only good news in terms of viewership for the NFL for Week 1.
- NBC Thursday Night Kickoff: 20.5 Million (-7%)
- CBS Singleheader: 13.6 Million (-12%)
- NBC Sunday Night: 18.9 Million (-15%)
- ESPN Monday Night Football Game 1: 10.8 Million (-21%)
- ESPN Monday Night Football Game 2: 7.7 Million (-38%)
I am not going to downplay the drop off in viewership for the NFL. That isn’t good by any stretch. However, the NFL still owns the viewership on TV most nights. Despite the drop off, Big Brother and The Masked Singer netted a hair under 5.0 million viewers each competing with Sunday Night Football. On Monday night, Dancing with the Starts obtained 8.1 million viewers beating out Game 2.
There are a number of factors to consider for the drop in viewership.
Sports Are Cannibalizing One Another Thus Lower Rating Across the Board
For sports junkies, this is the wet dream right now. Normally in September, NFL is dominating the landscape on Thursday, Sunday and Monday nights. However, the NBA Playoffs, the conclusion of the MLB season and NHL Playoffs are all happening in addition to the NFL. So we are seeing leagues cannibalizing each other. That being said, NFL is still crapping all over the other leagues as expected.
For example, the NBA’s most viewed playoff game thus far is 3.83 million for Game 3 of Lakers/Blazers. In 2019, the most viewed game was game 5 of the NBA Finals which carried 18.76 million.
The NFL struggles during election years. The NFL began booming to unprecedented levels shortly after Roger Goodell took over in 2006. For all the hate he gets, he’s done his job lacing the pockets of the owners he works for.
Since he took over, there has been a steady decrease in viewership in all three election years thus far (2008, 2012 and 2016). A big reason for this is because debates usually air alongside of the nationally televised NFL games. In 2009, the NFL saw a two million uptick from 2008. The NFL went from 16.6 million to 17.4 respectively from 2012 to 2013. Then of course we saw the dramatic dip in 2016 followed up the historic low in 2017 as a result of the protests.
Although there is no hard data to back this up. It is in the realm of possibility that the pandemic is impacting the ratings. TV ratings saw a major uptick back in March before hitting a wall and falling by June. The combination of people being home and having nothing to do likely had to do with that.
In addition, people not having social interaction or being able to live every day life normally can potentially aid to the lack of viewers.
Lastly, no preseason or college football leads to a lack of buildup for the NFL. There wasn’t any sort of hard countdown nor tease to getting regular season football.
Black Lives Matter
It would be foolish to ignore the amount of people likely tuning out due to league wide protesting and/or speaking out against racial injustice. After all, the opening featured fans booing because both teams were standing midfield (NOT DURING THE ANTHEM) locked arm in arm as a moment of solidarity. Read comment sections and you will see people bitching about phrases like “End Racism,” which is a fucking moronic thing to be pissed about. Enjoy your next Klan rally dickheads.
Nonetheless, there is no denying that it does impact the ratings.
Should the NFL Panic?
I am going with a hard no at the moment. I will have my alarm at about 3.5 on a scale to 10 right now. I do think the season will be an uphill battle, but things should even out by November (assuming the season is still going). They won’t be competing against the other sports. The election will have concluded. It will have long gained the momentum it normally obtains during the preseason.
Much like I feel like we will have a better pulse on the league performances by week 5-6, I think the ratings will start to come around to get a good pulse on where they will be once the noise is gone.