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NFL's Declining Viewership: One Slice at a Time

Discussion in 'Blinded by the Lombardis: Patriots Forum' started by tims4wins, Sep 20, 2016.

  1. tims4wins

    tims4wins PN23's replacement SoSH Member

  2. Pandemonium67

    Pandemonium67 Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member


    For me personally it's NFL over-saturation combined with attention being diverted to the playoff-contending Sox. September has good college games, too. None of this explains why people in other markets aren't watching compared to the same setup last year -- perhaps it's just taken a few years for the over-saturation to really take root. I mean, how many football games can you watch in a single 5-day weekend?

    I think numbers might pick up when the weather turns crappy, but in general I get the feeling the NFL has peaked.
  3. maufman

    maufman Anderson Cooper x Mr. Rogers Staff Member Dope Gold Supporter

    I think the national anthem protests are a big factor. People are pissed about those to an irrational degree.
  4. RedOctober3829

    RedOctober3829 Member SoSH Member

    I barely watch any NFL games outside of the Patriots anymore. I have little free time as it is on the weekends so I can't devote 3 hours to a game on TV that I am not interested in. I definitely can't sit there for a whole day and watch 1 pm/4 pm/8:30 pm. I'll occasionally watch a game if it involves key AFC teams the Patriots are fighting for HFA with. I don't even know the last time I even watched a whole MNF game that didn't involve the Pats as they always suck.

    I will watch every playoff game as my weekends are less busy in those times.
  5. Dahabenzapple2

    Dahabenzapple2 Member SoSH Member

    Whether that amount of anger is irrational or not is one person's viewpoint
  6. kenneycb

    kenneycb Hates Goose Island Beer; Loves Backdoor Play SoSH Member

    Unless the Pats are playing I only watch the SNF and MNF games until halftime or so since they end at like 11:30, which means I'm falling asleep around 12-12:30. Lack of sleep is not worth it for two teams I don't give two shits about.
  7. Hoodie Sleeves

    Hoodie Sleeves Member SoSH Member

    Yup - down here in the south people are having a bit of a conniption.

    Its amazing how hypocritical people can be - they're all up in arms about being able to fly their confederate flags, but if a black man doesn't stand for the anthem, gold help us.

    I also think that people are moving around more - and the NFL's absolute refusal to offer any sort of decent option for transplants is killing the sport for a lot of people. I'm not getting Direct TV, sorry.
  8. NortheasternPJ

    NortheasternPJ Member SoSH Member

    The commercials in National games are even more brutal than usual as well. The first half especially, it's a constant time out and commercial cycle.

    Oversaturation is the key for me, outside of commercials. Between Thursday Night, 3 games Sunday (plus RedZone) and then Monday it's way too much. I've also quit doing full season fantasy leagues, which I can look back and say that was driving me watching some of these night games.
  9. Kliq

    Kliq Member SoSH Member

    MNF has been in a big decline since moving to ESPN, I don't know if that is a great barometer for judging the overall popularity of the viewership. It hasn't helped that the two games so far have been clunkers between four teams nobody expects to make the playoffs (although Philly looks pretty good right now) and been poorly played. MNF is no longer special, like at all; it is much closer to Thursday Night Football than SNF, as it exists more as the bonus game that you might tune into during the week if nothing else is on and you don't have to get up for work the next morning.

    SNF on the other hand is terrific. They almost always get a marquee match-up, it is on Sunday Nights when a lot of people who may have been doing family stuff during the day can sit down and watch football, and it also serves as kind of a grand finale for fans who have been watching football all day. It has completely usurped MNF as the top NFL game of the week.
  10. H78

    H78 Fists of Millennial Fury! SoSH Member

    I have nothing to back this thought up, but I think some people are starting to tire of fantasy football, and many that used to play a lot (such as myself) don't play anymore because, frankly, they're bored with it. For a lot of people that's what drove their interest in shitty primetime games.

    I haven't played FF in years and honestly it's nice just to watch the games with my rooting interest solely in favor of the New England Patriots and teams playing their biggest threats in the AFC.

    It's like fantasy baseball. I feel like a decade ago everyone played and subsequently watched a lot more games, but how often do you hear people talking about their "fantasy baseball lineup" anymore? Perhaps at least partially as a result of that it seems less people overall are watching baseball. It becomes too much work unless you're playing for big money, which most people don't do.

    I think the NFL is going to see revenue drop significantly over the next decade. If I'm an NFL owner and I've even remotely considering selling my franchise, I'm doing it right now. The league bit off more than it can chew with all of the BS offseason controversies and when you combine that with (at least to me) a perceived drop in FF play, you begin to lose casual viewers that never really loved the sport in the first place.
  11. Rick Burlesons Yam Bag

    Rick Burlesons Yam Bag Internet Cowboy, Turbo Accelerator Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    I feel like we aren't getting a complete view of the data here. These seem like snapshots of data and it is hard to tell whether they are cherry-picked or not.

    Yes, all of us have gotten older in the last ten years and watch less, but we have been replaced by younger people who do the dumb shot we used to do. Or have we?
  12. Harry Hooper

    Harry Hooper Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    I think one factor is that the early September games look too much like extended preseason games now given the restrictions on training camp regimens.

    Perhaps more importantly, the poor quality of play on Thursday games has damaged the luster (via guilt by association) of prime time games on Sunday and Monday.
  13. Captaincoop

    Captaincoop Member SoSH Member

    At some point, maybe a segment of the population has trouble putting aside some combination of the following:

    1) That the league is run by a group of arrogant, despicable people, who benefit when we watch;
    2) That the officiating is so arbitrary and nonsensical that the games often don't feel like they have a legitimate outcome;
    3) That the players are destroying their bodies and brains by playing;
    4) That many/most of the people playing the game are growth-hormone-fueled cyborgs

    Or maybe just more and more people are stealing the broadcasts via the internet...
  14. Stitch01

    Stitch01 Well-Known Member Gold Supporter SoSH Member

    Olympics ratings down, Emmys down. TV ratings have been on the decline outside of these big events, maybe the big events starting to feel the pain now too.

    I find myself watching fewer night games and enjoying the NFL product less, but I cant tell if that's just because Im older and have more shit I have to do now or if there's an actual problem with the product. I also find that rather than sitting down to watch the whole Sunday/Monday night game I'll be doing something else and streaming a few minutes on my phone here or there.

    I find it plausible that the NFL is starting to ebb a bit and maybe the full season of Thursday nights is a bit of oversaturation, but Id guess the ratings declines are being driven more by shifts in consumer behavior rather than anything NFL centric.
    #14 Stitch01, Sep 20, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2016
  15. luckiestman

    luckiestman Son of the Harpy SoSH Member

    We need difference in difference analysis
  16. bankshot1

    bankshot1 Member SoSH Member

    There are probably a lot of factors, as noted above but I wonder if the absence of Brady AND Manning has taken some buzz away from the early season product.
  17. tims4wins

    tims4wins PN23's replacement SoSH Member

    I think I am more interested in the effect of this than the cause, honestly. If ratings for the whole season are down 10-15%, what impact does that have on sponsorship / revenue? League revenue has skyrocketed under Sheriff Rog, which is why he is employed and makes $40M annually, but if the revenue growth stops and even - gasp - revenue declines, how will the owners react?
  18. Sox and Rocks

    Sox and Rocks Member SoSH Member

    As others have noted, the primetime games have largely stunk, both Monday night games and Thursday ones. Sunday night games are solid, but viewers are often over-saturated by that point after watching the earlier games and perhaps college the day before, too. It seems like the NFL should try to make Monday, and, to a lesser extent, Thursday the penultimate primetime slots for the best games (though Thursday games are often sloppy due to the short turnaround.)

    One point no one has mentioned is the continued rising cost of Sunday Ticket. I've had this for years (over a decade now), and it goes up every year without fail. I think this year the full price for Max Ticket was close to $400 (I got a discounted rate, as usual, so I don't know the exact price), but even paying a discounted rate is getting harder to justify, and while I'm far from rich I do have some expendable income, but how much do I really want to pay for extra games? I think, at this point in my life, watching the best college games on Saturday, which are always free, and one or two Sunday games is enough. I might cancel Sunday Ticket next year regardless of how big the discount is.
  19. johnmd20

    johnmd20 literally like ebola Lifetime Member Gold Supporter SoSH Member

    If there is a continued ratings decline, and I personally believe there will be, (peak NFL 2011-2015) I think it will mostly be to do with the fact that people watching have to take into account they are watching people destroy their bodies and their lives for entertainment.

    Cam Newton on the first night of the year was extremely hard to watch. Either you bury it and keep watching or move along. A certain percentage of people will move along.
  20. IdiotKicker

    IdiotKicker Member SoSH Member

    This isn't unique to the NFL. Viewership for TV in general is declining at pretty similar rates. The NFL just isn't stemming the tide the way people thought it would, but they have a bigger headstart in terms of audience size in a lot of cases to begin with.


    Edit: In short, millenials are watching way less TV, old people are watching about the same, but they're also dying. So there's that.
  21. Sox and Rocks

    Sox and Rocks Member SoSH Member

    I also wonder how much the availability of abundant score updates, highlights, and replayed games on NFLN have a factor. Many times, it's enough for me to know the result and see the key plays, or even a sped-up version of the actual game later as opposed to having to watch it live. In fact, taping the game and watching it much later without knowing the score is almost impossible today due to all of the score updates every channel does. I used to tape games and watch them later, but now I don't even try.
  22. americantrotter

    americantrotter Member SoSH Member

    The NFL sold the Sunday night package to NBC as the premier prime time package.

    The resulting drop in quality makes sense when you remember the old ESPN/TNT games on Sunday nights of old.

    Those games are now the Monday night games.

    I think the factors all mentioned here are taking a toll, but whatever they are (injuries, steroids, ref inconsistencies, terrible rules, buffoonish front office, star power, anthem protests, over saturation) the quality on the field isn't enough to offset the difference. It always has before.

    Maybe we're seeing the tipping point and this is where the league needs to begin to make rational decisions. But I doubt we are there yet and I doubt they are capable.
  23. pokey_reese

    pokey_reese Member SoSH Member

    Obviously, there are a lot of factors, and pretty much everything people have mentioned so far makes sense. I think effects might be bigger than others; moving games from network television to cable is guaranteed to drop viewership, simply as a matter of accessibility. Additionally, I can't speak for everyone, but I watch more than 50% of my football at this point on my phone, laptop, or in a bar, rather than on my home television, and most people I know are the same way.

    I also wonder if the fantasy angle has actually hurt viewership in some ways. I find that myself, and people I know, are more engaged in football than before due to fantasy interests, but the reality is that it divorces us from the game itself playing out as a sporting event. How many times have you been sitting in a room with a game on, and everyone in the room is looking down at their phones with the fantasy apps open, looking to see how their guys in other games are doing? I don't think that the fantasy obsession necessarily even requires fans to watch the actual games much anymore, when the real excitement isn't watching the physical act of seeing a receiver make that touchdown grab, but seeing the 6 points update in your ESPN fantasy app.
  24. Stuffy McInnis

    Stuffy McInnis Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    I watch way too much football, so I'm not part of this decline, but watching live is an awful experience at home. Maybe it's because I don't watch any non-sports live anymore, but the ad content is just too much. I'll watch the Pats live, but I switch to Redzone during the commercials, let the Pats game get a little bit ahead so I can do 30-second skips between offensive plays, and then watch live a bit until the next commercial. Thursday/Sunday/Monday night games are best watched when most of the game is over, and you can watch the whole thing in about an hour, catching up in the 4th to watch live if it's close. The NFL TV experience is butter scraped over too much bread.
  25. nolasoxfan

    nolasoxfan Member SoSH Member

    I’ve stopped watching the regular season altogether, and I only bother with playoffs if it’s the Pats.
    I don’t like how the NFL is run, so why would I consume their product on a regular basis?
  26. CoolPapaBellhorn

    CoolPapaBellhorn Member SoSH Member

    This is it for me. The "protect the shield" sub-issues that live under item #1 above have just added up over the last few years, and it's become too much to stomach. I'm probably missing some, but there's:
    - Completely arbitrary player discipline
    - Utter disregard for the safety of women and children
    - Protection of players and franchises by local law enforcement
    - Teams relocating/threatening to relocate (I'd love to know how the viewing habits have changed in St. Louis, Oakland, San Diego, and LA)
    - Overall prioritization of maximizing PR benefits regardless of consequences
    - Toadies like Peter King selling all of it to you with a smile

    I know a lot of this goes on in other forms of entertainment that I still enjoy, but the NFL has been demonstrably guilty of all of it. Screw 'em.
  27. kenneycb

    kenneycb Hates Goose Island Beer; Loves Backdoor Play SoSH Member

    Wait, what's the issue with women and children?

    Regardless, all of the above can more or less be applied to the other major sports, arguably most so in hockey, which is my number 1.
  28. TheoShmeo

    TheoShmeo Skrub's sympathy case Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    There are a lot of factors that play into this and many have been mentioned in this thread. The anthem possibility is interesting and it's not something that would have occurred to me. I mean I know it's a big issue for some but that people would not watch games over that is news to me.

    My first thought went to the bolded comment above. We're all a product of our own environments and experiences but I have had numerous friends tell me that they just can't abide watching the NFL or college football in the face of the CTE news. The notion that they would be watching a significant percentage of players turning themselves into vegetables and the NFL's purposeful ignorance of the same has lead some to look away. One friend mentioned that the impact on kids who subject themselves to the risks of tackle football, which is partially fueled by their worship of NFL players and team loyalty, makes it much harder to watch pro football.

    I'm not projecting here. My own interest in the NFL remains as high as ever. That said, if and when the Pats return to mediocrity or worse, I think that it's at least possible that I will be more impacted by the CTE aspect.
  29. Average Game James

    Average Game James Well-Known Member Gold Supporter SoSH Member

    This says nothing about other markets, but the the Deflategate farce and now Brady suspension have unquestionably affected my viewership. In past years, I'd watch close to every minute of every Patriots game and would typically watch whatever was on before/after as well. This year, I've barely watched a minute - caught the end of the 4th quarter of the Pats-Dolphins game at the 19th hole after finishing a round of golf on Sunday and that's it...
  30. maufman

    maufman Anderson Cooper x Mr. Rogers Staff Member Dope Gold Supporter

    The reason I think the drop in ratings is more about the anthem than CTE is because of the suddenness of it. As recently as last season, NFL ratings were as strong as ever, even in the face of broader trends that had caused ratings for almost all other kinds of TV programming to decline. Nothing happened during the offseason that you could point to as a potential inflection point on the injury issue; if anything, it was quiet on the news front compared to recent years. I suppose you could say the loss of Manning and Brady is driving the declines, but I'm skeptical that's true -- there's no precedent for one or two individuals making that big a difference in football ratings. I don't have any evidence that it is the anthem issue, but that seems like the most logical explanation.
  31. dhappy42

    dhappy42 Member

    The drop in NFL ratings isn't about the anthem protest or concussions. It's because of demographics and technology. TV ratings are down across the board because fewer people watch TV.
  32. NortheasternPJ

    NortheasternPJ Member SoSH Member

    31 posts in and no one has come in with the "I'm really quitting this drug once Brady and Belichick are done! That'll show the NFL!!!" I'm impressed.
  33. OilCanShotTupac

    OilCanShotTupac Sunny von Bulow Gold Supporter SoSH Member

    My pet theory is that EVERY form of entertainment has a smaller audience because there are so many more options available.

    When I was 10, we got the ABC, CBS, and NBC (sort of- reception was bad) local affiliates, and that was it, we had to get off the couch and fuck around with the big knob on top of the TV to get those.

    Now with 200+ cable channels, Streaming access to stuff from all over the world, Hulu/Nwtflix/Amazon, YouTube, plus Xbox/PS, why the hell is a kid going to watch Saints-Jags on a Thursday night (or Padres-Brewers, for that matter?)

    Some will, of course, but 3000+ things to watch is > 3, obviously.
  34. Warning Track Speed

    Warning Track Speed Member SoSH Member

    The product is increasingly lousy and the commercial breaks are ridiculous. Far too many rules called in too arbitrary a fashion; far too many ads; and the quality of play is uneven/crappy. How many compelling games were there last weekend? Small sample and some weeks everything's a shootout, but if you're trying to sit on your couch watching one single game, it's torturous. Even with two over-the-air games on at once, the amount of times both are in commercials at once is unacceptable. I used to be a wire-to-wire triple-header guy, but now between the factors I already mentioned plus the fact that score updates are instantaneous on the phone, it's ever-easier to be somewhere else for most of a Sunday.
  35. Ed Hillel

    Ed Hillel Wants to be startin somethin SoSH Member

    The NFL has managed to turn everything into a soap opera, which is addictive for a time but after a while has just become exhausting. The on-field product is still good, but the focus on is it becoming less and less. ESPN has turned to complete shit rampant with hot takes overreaction to the point it's basically unwatchable. Even that was paletable at times, but as annoying as Skip Bayless could be, the guy at least did his homework. Now even he's gone and there's been another shift into the political realm, which I could not find less appetizing. NFLN is mostly the same, outside of their excellent NFL Films productions. The concussion stuff doesn't help, it's tough to watch.
  36. johnmd20

    johnmd20 literally like ebola Lifetime Member Gold Supporter SoSH Member

    This is all true, of course, but in recent seasons, the NFL hasn't experienced declining ratings like the Oscars and other live programming. Some of the games last year had ratings at 20 year highs. Almost all of the NFL ratings were up last year from 2014 except for the ESPN games.
  37. Andrew

    Andrew broke his neck in costa rica SoSH Member

    Also, you know, reality.
  38. Hoodie Sleeves

    Hoodie Sleeves Member SoSH Member

    This is a big part of it for me - I watch football because its largely self contained, it's an elegant sport, and the strategy is way more interesting than most other sports. Generally, the stories don't matter - everything is decided on the playing field, and the playing field is relatively level. Especially with the Patriots, the nonsense off the field just doesn't matter.

    Spygate put a hole in that for me - and Deflategate pretty much killed it.

    I think for both sides, Deflategate paints the NFL as patently unfair - either the Patriots got royally screwed, or the veil just got pulled back and you get to see how corrupt the good teams really are - either one makes the NFL look like the WWE.
  39. Couperin47

    Couperin47 Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

    wrong thread
  40. cornwalls@6

    cornwalls@6 Member SoSH Member

    With the caveat of being cautious to not over-react to small sample size, I suspect the decline is attributable to some combination of the possible causes already listed by many in the thread. But the two that strike me as being most impactful are over saturation of the product, simply too much football being broadcast, on too many nights of the week, and the rapid fragmentation of culture and entertainment in general that technology has wrought. There's simply very few things that occupy the center anymore. Playoffs and the super bowl will continue to draw huge viewership for the foreseeable I think. And I suspect as the season goes on, and the weather turns foul in large parts of the country, ratings will rebound. But the league not being immune to the same forces every other form of entertainment has been subject to for years seems like it was inevitable. Kind of surprising it took this long if anything.
  41. ( . ) ( . ) and (_!_)

    ( . ) ( . ) and (_!_) T&A SoSH Member

    Does anyone have any doubt that the NFL and their broadcast partners answer to their ratings drop is going to be anything but MORE SOAP OPERA?

    It's going to get worse, NESN style.
  42. crystalline

    crystalline Member SoSH Member

  43. Dehere

    Dehere Member SoSH Member

    A key thing to understand is that TV viewership stats are a function of both the number of people watching and the amount of time they spend watching. It's possible for one to be up while the other is down.

    This is in fact what actually happened in Week 1. The total number of people watching any NFL increased over 2015 by about 600k.

    The amount of time they spent watching per game decreased by less than a minute.

    But the number of games they watched declined by almost -4%. The average viewer watched at least some of 2.6 game windows in Week 1. Last year it was 2.7.

    So, make of that what you will. I can think of several reasons why that might happen but I can't prove any of them.

    We won't be able to get a read on total reach of Week 2 til tomorrow, but point being when you read that Week 1 ratings were down - and they were - it's not a matter of fewer people, but more people spending less time.
  44. Ale Xander

    Ale Xander Member SoSH Member

    I agree with Stitch and OilCan. There's just too much competition for our TV eyeballs, especially considering that the highest rated TV shows have historically been placed on Thursday and Sunday nights. .GoT wasn't around during the Frank Gifford days. Sure it makes sense to DVR/OD the non-live stuff but people are social creatures, they don't want to be left out of water cooler conversations.

    Furthemore, we've become society with shorter attention spas due to the smartphone craze. We can't sit still for 3 more.

    Personally, I like to watch the 1st two drives of non-Patriot non-premium night games and then the last 5-10 minutes of the 4th quarter, if a close game. I used to like watching the RedZone from 1-4:25 and 6:45-7:45ish/end every time the Pats didnt have a 1PM game, but didn't even spring for it this year. And I want to protect my eyeballs. It's just not worth it.
  45. jon abbey

    jon abbey Shanghai Warrior Dope SoSH Member

    One thing is that college football seems more exciting so far this year, especially that front-loaded first week but this past weekend also. I always prefer pro sports to college, hoops and football, but am more into college football than pro so far this year.

    Too many NFL games these days seem to be decided by kickers, which is killing my interest. I would like to see the NFL somehow go to a system where you get 1 point in the standings for a win of 1-3 points, 2 for a win of 4-13 points, and 3 for 14 or more. That is just off the top of my head and could certainly be tinkered with, but for me it would make things a little more interesting than they are currently.
  46. Quiddity

    Quiddity lurker

    The NFL was going to hit a breaking point at some point and start the inevitable decline, and perhaps it has finally happened. The over saturation of the product. Absolutely horrid games on Monday and Thursday night football. Increased revelations over. how the players are destroying their bodies by playing. It being more obvious than ever that the NFL doesn't care about domestic abuse. The big scandal over daily fantasy games that has played out over the past year. The completely fabricated Deflategate scandal.Horrible officiating. The NFL owners trying to extort cities and stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from the tax payers. The ongoing collapse in ESPN's business model through cable cutting. Eventually things were going to catch up with them. My interest in the NFL is way down this year. No more fantasy. No more out of market games. Once my cable contract is up, goodbye to ESPN. There are many out there feeling the same way.
  47. AMS25

    AMS25 Member SoSH Member

    This is spot on. The fragmentation of the media marketplace has affected everything, from the capacity to keep up with sports, popular culture, and politics. Presidents have a more difficult time reaching the public because their televised addresses reach smaller and smaller audiences. I don't watch the Emmy's because I don't watch the shows honored there. And, I don't watch much pro football because I live in the Southwest and often end up with the Cowboys and/or Texans.
  48. riboflav

    riboflav Member SoSH Member

    It's fragmentation plus commercial interruption. At the same time folks can stream almost anything it seems, they also do not have to endure commercial breaks. The NFL, as many have said for the past decade, have added too many breaks. Not only does this rely on the viewer's tolerance level but it also has led, I believe, to a poorer product. Indeed, I have never been a soccer fan, but have recently started watching it because I've noticed it increases my my "flow" experience in that it is a game without interruption.
  49. Reverend

    Reverend for king and country Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    Rationality is a function of subjective point of view now?

    Christ, no wonder everyone's so screwed up about this shit.

    I love people can't imagine that people might be discovering that TV sucks.

    Well, some people.
  50. dhappy42

    dhappy42 Member

    Year-on-year comparisons of game TV ratings can be skewed a lot by things such as match-ups (Eagles v. Bears Zzzzz) and weather. Nice, late-summer weather weather in a big market like NYC can knock a few percentage points off total ratings.

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