The NFL has had a rough couple of years.
Fans of all stripes have found something to quibble about with the league.
For some, the NFL has utterly failed in discouraging or stopping players from protesting during the national anthem. Many fans find the act disrespectful.
For others, the NFL has become too much of a blood sport, with growing concerns over CTE and head trauma.
Some even consider the NFL a racist institution because it features no black owners and won’t give Colin Kaepernick a job.
As one can clearly see, people from all walks of life and points of view have been unhappy with the league over the last two years.
And that’s come to fruition with the final ratings of the 2017 NFL season.
Following an 8 percent ratings decline from 2015 to 2016, viewership plummeted another 9.7 percent in the 2017 season, according to numbers registered by Nielsen, per ESPN’s Darren Rovell.
While a percentage less than 10 might not seem like much of a dip, it’s significant when dealing with millions of viewers.
A 2017 NFL game averaged 14.9 million viewers.
Just a year prior, with ratings already diminishing, an NFL game averaged 16.5 million viewers.
The drop of 1.6 million viewers per game pokes a massive hole in one of the NFL’s favorite defenses against its waning popularity.
The refrain of league executives about the declining 2016 NFL ratings was that a contentious presidential election and its coverage had siphoned off a large chunk of viewers.
That theory held some water, with ratings eventually bouncing back in 2016 after the final televised presidential debates.
In 2017? The NFL has no such excuse for its sagging ratings.
Aside from upset fans, there are certainly some other extenuating circumstances affecting the league’s ratings.
First and foremost, people in general are watching less cable television than ever, with a myriad of other outlets such as Netflix and YouTube that provide entertainment.
Second, the NFL may have oversaturated its own market with the proliferation of “Thursday Night Football” games, which typically netted the worst ratings of the NFL’s primetime games.
Third, many fans consume most of their content through NFL RedZone, which doesn’t apply to their ratings numbers, while others just stream games illegally.
In fairness to the NFL, even with its diminished ratings, the league dominated cable television viewership.
Twenty of the top 30 most-watched television shows of 2017 were football games, per Nielsen.
But even with that nugget of good news, the NFL can’t be thrilled with the trajectory of the league’s ratings. It’ll be interesting to see if the league’s proposed plan to keep players in the locker room for the national anthem will help stop the bleeding.
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