Since the election, national NFL games across broadcast and cable are averaging an audience of 18 million viewers, according to Nielsen data obtained by FOXBusiness.com. That’s a nearly 17% increase from the period from the start of the season up until the election, when national NFL games drew an average of 15.4 million viewers.
Sustained success by the 11-1 Dallas Cowboys, owner of the NFL’s largest fan base, has helped to boost TV ratings. The Cowboys’ win over the Washington Redskins drew 35.1 million viewers, the highest total for a regular-season game in more than two decades. Similar, the Cowboys’ victory over the Minnesota Vikings on December 1 drew 21.8 million viewers, making it the most-watched Thursday Night Football game in the series’ history.
The data suggests that at least some viewers are dedicating more time to the NFL since the outcome of the election was decided on November 8. But overall, TV ratings are still down across the board compared to last year.
During the 2015 season, CBS said it drew an average of 19.1 million viewers, while FOX said it drew an average of 20.75 million viewers.
NFL media executives addressed the ratings decline in an internal memo in October. At the time, ratings across all networks were down 11% through the first four weeks of the season, ESPN’s Darren Rovell reported.
"Prime-time windows have clearly been affected the most, while declines during the Sunday afternoon window are more modest," NFL executives, Brian Rolapp and Howard Katz, wrote in the memo obtained by ESPN. "While our partners, like us, would have liked to see higher ratings, they remain confident in the NFL and unconcerned about a long-term issue."
Aside from election coverage, pundits offered the NFL’s concussion scandal, a series of player protests during the National Anthem, cord-cutting and the league’s oversaturation of the television market as potential reasons for its ratings struggles.
President-elect Donald Trump took credit for the ratings decline during an October rally in Cincinnati, Ohio.
“Then you look at the NFL. Well, now they should start recovering, but their ratings were so far down, and you know what that reason was? This -- because this business is tougher than the NFL,” Trump said.NFL executives are whistling past the graveyard. The ratings drop is clearly a long-term issue. If not for the spectacular season of "America's Team" -- for some reason people have always loved the Dallas Cowboys -- viewership would be down by more than a couple million.
As a general principle I like to pay attention to low-brow entertainment -- professional football, comic books, etc. -- because I believe it corroborates aspects of the political zeitgeist.
In the case of the NFL ratings drop, I think it mirrors the loss of faith in the Establishment, the political and mainstream media, whatever you want to call the reigning center, that has led to the rise of Trump and now the Deep State's counterattack by ginning up a Fake News crisis against a New Cold War/McCarthyite backdrop.
The NFL will have no such recourse. A majority of the games remain terrible, nearly unwatchable, like Sunday's Green Bay blowout of Seattle. The Seahawks have never been blown out in the Russell Wilson era. That's four years never having lost a game by more than ten points. That's an amazing achievement. A first like that has to augur something.
One could argue that it is just a natural changing of the guard. But it is not. Rising powers like Tampa and Tennessee remain mediocre. Overall offenses are inconsistent and defenses don't dominate. Performances are weird, lackluster.
I think the reality of CTE and the enormous amounts of money are finally suffocating amazing athleticism. Repeat head trauma and corporate concentration of wealth pretty well sums up the United States.