The NFL is still contending with sluggish ratings half way into the 2017 season.
NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” through week six of the regular season is down 4% in viewership compared to last year; and the averages of Sunday afternoon games on Fox and CBS are down 7% and 14% respectively, according to Nielsen data. The NFL is down 6% overall this season and 16% in viewership compared to two seasons ago.
There has been some bright spots for the league’s viewership so far this season, however. Ratings for ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” is up 6% from last year and “Thursday Night Football” on CBS and NFL Network has also seen viewership go up 14%.
The league had no comment on this story
Ratings last season were hampered by presidential campaign coverage, but viewership rebounded when the election ended and as the playoffs approached. This season got off to a bad start due to Hurricane Irma, which got around-the-clock coverage and prompted evacuations in Florida.
Down ratings don’t bode well for networks and advertisers, but the numbers are getting extra attention this season because President Trump won’t stop tweeting about the NFL. His latest public feud with the league started last month at an Alabama rally where Trump slammed players who took a knee during the national anthem to protest police violence. Since then, he’s tweeted about the NFL nearly 20 times, perhaps to prove the point that anthem protests are hurting the league.
Trump was back on the offense Wednesday morning after day two of an NFL meeting in New York with team owners.
“The NFL has decided that it will not force players to stand for the playing of our National Anthem,” Trump tweeted after Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters on Wednesday that the league would like players to stand during the anthem, but do not require them to do so. “Total disrespect for our great country!”
Goodell said on Wednesday that players aren’t trying to be “disrespectful to the flag” when they kneel during the anthem.
It’s important to point out that even though the NFL’s numbers are down from last year and drastically down from two years ago, the league still brings in the biggest ratings on television. Yet, a 6% drop is nothing to ignore.
The root cause of the declining numbers could stem from a myriad of issues that range from bad games to bad press coming from Trump’s attacks against the league.
“Last year, it was easy to blame the decline on election coverage,” wrote Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. “This year, it’s harder to pinpoint the precise reason.”