Yorktown Sentry

Who’s to Blame for the NFL Ratings Decline?

Recently+the+National+Football+League%E2%80%99s+ratings+have+dropped%2C+mainly+due+to+a+lack+of+viewership+from+fans.+
Recently the National Football League’s ratings have dropped, mainly due to a lack of viewership from fans.

Recently the National Football League’s ratings have dropped, mainly due to a lack of viewership from fans.

Courtesy of The New York Times

Courtesy of The New York Times

Recently the National Football League’s ratings have dropped, mainly due to a lack of viewership from fans.

Charlie Finn, Sentry Staff Reporter

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Recently it has become apparent that the National Football League’s ratings are way down, mainly due to a lack of viewership from fans. The downward trend has been obvious since 2015 and does not seem to be slowing down. The problem is that the NFL cannot seem to figure out why ratings have dropped, thus providing no solution. Some believe Colin Kaepernick’s protests against the National Anthem are to blame, or even Roger Goodell and his poor handling of the league. However, can this really be what is lowering the viewership by an average of 9 percent since just last year? Unlikely. What would seem more plausible is a multitude of things, including the quality of play, fantasy sports and even the NFL’s own efforts to increase viewership: NFL Redzone.

NFL Redzone is the NFL’s attempt to make even more money from viewership than they already do. This channel highlights every touchdown, important play or cool highlight throughout the day, and it is all commercial free. However, this is actually detrimental for the NFL’s ratings because it draws fans away from actually watching the games themselves. Why would fans sit down to watch a three hour game with countless commercials and useless plays when they could be watching every game simultaneously? In reality, the NFL did high amounts of damage to their viewership by debuting this program back in 2009.

What’s more is that Fantasy Football feeds watchers of NFL Redzone. The idea of Fantasy Football is to draft a team of real NFL players from various teams in order to set a lineup and compete against other teams. Points are earned through plays like touchdowns, rushing yards, receiving yards, interceptions, etc. All that matters to fans that play Fantasy Football is who has a lot of rushing, receiving yards or touchdowns that week. NFL Redzone shows fans exactly this. By showing fans all these highlights, they can watch all the different players on their teams without having to watch a full game. This effectively eliminates  a hefty part of the fan base that may otherwise watch televised NFL games.

Fantasy Football and NFL Redzone are definitely not helping the NFL’s ratings, however, they are definitely not the sole conspirators. Another obvious problem is the decreasing quality of play.

To further examine play quality in the NFL, let’s take a look at Week 1 this year.  Week 1 is a pinnacle week for the NFL because fans are excited to finally watch some football after a long break. In years past, the average margin of victory in Week 1 was just 7.6 points, a little over a touchdown with an extra point. This makes for competitive, exciting games that gets fans excited for the season ahead.

This year, the margin of victory in Week 1 was 13.6, close to two touchdowns and almost double the yearly average. To add to this, even though the games were blowouts and the teams are winning by huge margins, the winning team is not scoring six or seven touchdowns. In fact, on average, teams combined for only 40.4 points per game, less than three touchdowns for each team and, five points lower than the 2016 average. Basically, the games in Week 1 did not make for what one would consider interesting football. This definitely drove fans away from watching games throughout the rest of the season, as it left a bad image of the quality of play.

There are many underlying problems that the NFL must  learn to deal with in order to get people watching again and, like its problems, there will definitely not be a single solution. Will Roger Goodell step down as commissioner anytime soon? No one knows. What we do know is if he cannot find a way to combat these problems, their ratings may continue to drop for years to come.

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Who’s to Blame for the NFL Ratings Decline?