Since Thanksgiving, the National Football League has little to be thankful for. It is one thing to see your ratings begin to dip the last couple of years and quite another to see the dire results in the past two months.
Beginning with the primetime Thanksgiving game between the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants, the story gets downright troublesome for owners and advertisers. That game alone attracted an audience that was a full ten percent below the year prior. That is one game and one network.
The major decline in viewership and fan loyalty can be traced back to San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem. Not only did his action violate NFL policy, it violated the patriotism and continued interest of millions of American football fans.
The wildly unpopular gesture was not addressed by the league and its ownership in an immediate fashion and attracted the ire of none other than President Trump. That was when the walls began to close around the entire idea of spending Sunday afternoon with disgruntled millionaires.
But the league decided to permit the kneeling protests and the cameras were rolling. Not only did the ratings plummet, but so did advertising revenue and team souvenir sales. The league office was busy addressing dress-code problems with themed cleats and socks, but not when Kaepernick wore socks depicting police officers as pigs.
The owners have now found themselves the unknowing victims of political correctness and its aftermath. In a period of just less than 24 months, the NFL has gone from one of the most liked to the least liked sports league. There is no one to blame but themselves.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the average audience of an NFL game declined 9.7 percent in the 2016 season alone. The 2017 figures are not available yet with the NFC and AFC championship games this weekend.
Further decline in viewership was witnessed the last week of the season when NBC announced it would cancel its participation in the evening game. The talk now is half the games usually held on Thursday nights next year will also be dropped.
The Thursday and Sunday NFL prime-time packages are shared by CBS, NBC and the NFL Network. They have dropped in viewership by over 12 percent from the previous year. Nervous NFL management, owners and advertisers await ratings results for Sunday’s championship games and February 4th when the Super Bowl will be telecast.
Good luck with that!