Hub Arkush: TV Ratings Are Definitely Down, But Is The NFL The Problem?

Of course it is impossible to have this conversation without highlighting the political circus currently enveloping our day-to-day lives and trying to determine what if any impact that has on our watching the NFL and whether or not NFL players’ protests and Donald Trump’s subsequent attack on those players and the league have had on the decreased viewership. There is little or no evidence to support Trump’s claim that ratings are down because of the protests, or because people are more interested in what’s going on with him. I am not saying Trump is wrong, and in fact I’m sure there are some of you out there tuning out the league for the reasons he suggests. But there is no statistically reliable evidence I can find anywhere to support his claim, and the great majority of TV executives and industry experts have expressed real doubts his claims have actually had much impact on the declines in viewership. It is believed to be far more likely folks are turning off their TVs due to the rampant parity across the NFL, a slew of noncompetitive games through the first four weeks of the season, the NFL’s failure to properly address issues of domestic violence and other player personal conduct code issues and because of concerns over traumatic brain issues and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, i.e. CTE. There is one thing we also know for sure. The biggest issue of all — which has nothing to do with the NFL — is the wealth of new alternate means of delivery and cord cutters. The over-the-air cable and satellite delivery TV business is actually suffering similar or even larger declines across the board to what the NFL is experiencing, and many of its best programs are actually losing audience in much larger numbers and at a much greater pace than the NFL is experiencing. The bottom line is, while declining viewership could eventually be a huge problem for the NFL, the cause of the problem appears to be far more about TV as we know it than it is about the NFL.

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