Finding excuses for its plummeting ratings has become quite a challenge for the NFL. One of the most often used excuses for the drop-off has been that the presidential election caused the NFL’s ratings decline.
Well, the NFL is once again going to have to find a new excuse.
According to a report from Drexel Hamilton media analyst Tony Wible, NFL ratings fell by fourteen percent during the first nine weeks of the season, which encompasses the entire time the election coincided with the regular season. However, viewership only moderately rebounded from weeks ten through seventeen.
According to the New York Post, “Overall, average TV viewership for the 2016 NFL season fell 8 percent, to 16.5 million people, from 17.9 million the previous year. It was the steepest dropoff in viewers in the past 10 years — and only the third down year since 2007. To be sure, the 2015 NFL season drew an average of 17.88 million viewers a game — the highest average audience in a decade.”
What effect did the distractions of an election year have on the league? The Post reports, “There has been speculation that the televised presidential debates and the otherwise contentious political race stole attention from the NFL games. Others pointed to too many commercials during games, noncompetitive games, three prime-time nights of NFL a week and a riveting World Series game during Week 8 as other reasons for the drop in viewers.
“Wible did not say why he thought NFL ratings were near a peak, but said the diversions were not the reason. In all, an average of 2.3 million viewers returned to watch NFL games after Election Day.”
So, if the ratings drop had nothing to do with the election, officiating, market saturation, or too many commercials, then what caused the drop? If only we had a poll that could tell us what caused people to tune out the NFL in 2016:
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter: @themightygwinn