Declining NFL ratings are set to cost the league’s broadcast partner’s half a billion dollars this year alone, a new report reveals.
Outkick the Coverage, a website run by controversial sports radio host Clay Travis, notes that the NFL’s broadcasters — CBS, ESPN, Fox and NBC — have already lost “several hundred million” this year in ad revenue alone.
The report says the decline “has the league’s top executives and television partners scrambling to figure out what went wrong. How did a league that was setting ratings records in 2015 suddenly see its audience fall by nearly 20 percent just two years later?
“While much of the attention has focused on the protests, according to ongoing conversations with several people close to the league and its television partners over the past couple of months, the ratings decline that will cost the TV partners up to $500 million can actually be attributed to four primary factors,” the report reads.
Only one of those factors — and the last one in the article — are the national anthem protests. The others are (seriatim) the “decimation of the one Eastern kickoff window on Sundays,” “bad football,” and the two new teams in Los Angeles.
That last one may seem a bit specious, but the point is actually pretty valid: since the Rams and Raiders left in the mid-1990s, the second-biggest television market in the nation got the best games on at any given time, since there was no LA team to broadcast.
While the Rams are first in the NFC West, it’s not like they’re the most exciting team in the world. And then there’s the Chargers, who are only in playoff contention because of the horrible AFC and the plummeting leader of the Chargers’ division, the Kansas City Chiefs.
However, the protests still play a part in the decline.
“While the protest has received the majority of the media attention and the league and TV partners definitely believe it’s an issue, they don’t believe the protest is the reason for the substantial drop in ratings by itself,” the report reads.
However, “(t)here is agreement that the NFL needs to find a resolution to the protests,” the report reads.
The Outkick the Coverage piece comes one week after it was reported that the NFL had suffered a worse-than-usual ratings slump, going from 5.6-5.7 percent declines in the three weeks prior to a 6.3 percent year-over-year decline in week 11.
According to the New York Post, that took the NFL from 15.9 million viewers per game a year ago to 14.9 million this year, a decline of one million viewers.
Week 11 was blighted by two controversies: Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch’s refusal to stand for the American national anthem but standing during the Mexican national anthem during a game in Mexico City, and the surfacing of a video showing Cowboys owner Jerry Jones making a racially tinged remark back in 2013.
While the reasons behind the NFL’s ratings slump may be multifarious and go beyond the product being offered to viewers, one message is undeniable: controversies are hurting the league. Failure to acknowledge and address this is just going to lead to a steeper decline — and, while the NFL itself isn’t going to be losing that half-billion dollars in ad revenue, don’t think that this won’t affect the league the next time broadcast contracts come up.