Last year, in the fall season, the top 20 rated TV shows were all National Football League games. In fact, 45 of the top 50 rated shows were NFL games.
It is difficult to over-estimate the importance of pro football to network television. NFL football is network television's money machine. To get an idea of its importance:
- Between 2014 and 2022 media companies will pay the NFL $40 billion for broadcast rights.
- By 2018, broadcast rights are projected to exceed ticket sales.
- In 1998, over half of NFL fans said they would rather be at a game than watch it on TV. By 2011 over 70% said they'd rather watch it at home.
But NFL football has suffered a major shock this fall. Ratings for the first few weeks are down almost 15%. This is a stunner.
And the drop off can't be attributed to a general drop in TV viewing. It is specific to the NFL. According to the
Pivotal Research Group, during the first 5 weeks of the season...
- Total TV viewing from all sources is slightly up
- College football viewing is essentially flat
Who is dropping off? Once again, according to Pivotal...
- Declines are more pronounced in blue collar households than white collar
- Declines are more pronounced in lower income households than higher income
- Declines are more pronounced among white households than black
So what's going on? According to a poll conducted by Yahoo Sports, the primary driver of the ratings drop may be Colin Kaepernick. From a New York magazine
article about the Yahoo Sports research...
"...29 percent of NFL fans are watching less football than in years past. Of that group, 40 percent blame the national anthem protests started in the preseason by Colin Kaepernick. That was an especially popular reason for those 55 and over. Fifty-three percent of that group cited protests as their main reason for avoiding the NFL..."
NFL has denied this. According to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell...
“We don’t think we’ve lost viewers, and I think when you look at ratings you have to go a little deeper than that,” he said. “There’s viewers, but also how long they’re engaging for. A lot of times, people will leave a game for whatever reason, whether they’re going to go to other programming, or whether the game is less competitive.”
have no idea what the hell that statement means but Goodell, not famous for brilliant insights, is understandably covering for Kaepernick and the NFL.
Whatever you may think of the protests, there's one thing that's pretty clear - they don't seem to be doing the NFL owners or the broadcast industry any good.