But Why Are The Ratings Declining?

I’ve got a theory…


For the first time, at least in my lifetime, ratings for primetime NFL games are declining.

NBC’s Sunday Night Football is down 16% compared to last year.

ESPN’s Monday Night Football is down 20%, and the CBS/NFL network’s Thursday Night Football is down 14%.


For some, the declines are credibly explained away by a less-than-enthralling on-field product. The primetime games in particular have featured uninspired, unbalanced matchups, which have led to a string of the sort of blowouts that are only of interest to daily fantasy sports enthusiasts and degenerate gamblers.” *

Games that aren’t outright massacres are often endurance tests, joyless three-and-a-half-hour slogs punctuated by the league’s stupefying schedule of rules infractions and penalty calls that are themselves protracted by endless reviews and revisions.” *

For its part, the NFL…(believes) that the wild and wooly presidential election cycle is the primary culprit.” *

I think the “endurance tests, joyless three-and-a-half hour slogs” is closer to the mark.

And the main reason games take so long is not officiating, it’s commercial breaks.

There are so many commercials, and so many breaks, I can no longer watch a live game. I record the ones I want to watch and zap through the endless spots.

The average NFL game has over 100 commercials and just 11 minutes of actual football plays. **

There’s another issue that I think affects NFL ratings: Fantasy players.

My son is in a couple of fantasy leagues and he spends most games on his phone, tracking his players and his points.

He is less interested in slogging through a live game broadcast than checking on his fantasy teams.

So, let’s summarize: Changes in technology that offer a different, individualized way to experience games, content that’s getting worse, not better, and gross over-commercialization.

Sounds a lot like Radio.


*Ad Age (subscription required)
** Quartz