Cord-Cutting, Weak Games Said To Be Leading Factor in NFL Ratings Tumble

NFL logo - National Football Association logo - 400 pixels wideDeath, taxes and strong NFL ratings. Prior to this year, these three things were certainties in life.

While death and taxes remain unavoidable, a world in which ratings for NFL games constantly grow no longer exists.

The NFL, with its tens of billions of dollars of revenues and hundreds of millions of rapt fans, is now facing a crisis thanks to plunging TV ratings. A blue-chip business, which has made all of its owners billionaires thanks to lucrative national TV deals, suddenly finds itself looking for answers. As of right now, the league's commissioner, Roger Goodell, doesn't have any answers.


On Monday Night Football last night, the Chicago Bears defeated the Minnesota Vikings in an underwhelming affair. The game was sloppy, ugly and many people tuned out early. This translated into some very weak ratings for the game - down 18% from last year.

Sunday Night Football presented another embarrassing data point for the NFL, as it marked the first time since 2011 that the league had gone head-to-head against Major League Baseball and lost.

Ratings for Thursday Night Football have been abysmal this year, thanks to subpar games that have produced sloppy play and uninteresting storylines.

The NFL, for all of its stability leading up into the 2016 season, is suddenly struggling to find answers.


There are many reasons why fans have been tuning out this season. In no particular order:

1) Cord-cutting. Many Americans continue to cut out their cable packages and instead opt for a mix of streaming services such as Netflix. The number of active ESPN subscribers continues to drop precipitously.

2) Negative storylines. Domestic abuse. Drug abuse. The NFL has not been cast in a positive light over the past couple of years, as story lines involving the likes of Ray Rice have dominated the headlines.

3) Head injuries. Many parents are refusing to enrol their kids in football, which has led to a surge in popularity in other sports such as basketball and soccer. This has obviously hurt the NFL as well.

4) Subpar games. Jacksonville Jaguars vs Tennessee Titans on Thursday Night Football? How many people are going to stay in to watch that game?

5) Oversaturation. There is NFL football on Thursday night, all day Sunday and Monday night. The NFL has had a handful of games in London this year as well - that means that on some Sundays, there is football all the way from 9:30 am EST until 12:00 am EST. For some people, that is simply too much football.

6) Other sports. Major League Baseball (resurgence of Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians) and the NBA (Cavaliers vs Warriors) are simply offering the more compelling storylines right now. For many people, choosing the World Series over the NFL is a no-brainer.

7) Drop in popularity of daily fantasy sports. Scandal has ravaged this industry, and this has surely hurt NFL viewership numbers at least somewhat.


The good news for the NFL? They remain wildly popular and still make money hand over fist.

The bad news for the NFL? There are no easy answers to some of the issues that continue to plague them. For a league that makes many billions of dollars per year from its national TV deals, falling TV ratings is an issue of the utmost importance.

League Commissioner Roger Goodell has avoided the axe so far, despite the fact that the league has suffered many embarrassing setbacks while he has been in charge.

If TV ratings continue to fall, Goodell's job may not be safe.

Filed under: General Knowledge

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