Analysts Expect NFL Viewership to Fall Again This Year

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With the preseason under way and the regular season just around the corner, the NFL is hoping that it will see a rebound from last year’s ratings slippage. However, according to Variety, analysts are throwing cold water on that hope. Predicting that NFL viewership for primetime games will continue to decline in 2017.

The Hollywood paper says that its analysis of the coming season shows a continued decline in TV ratings for NFL football across all networks.

For instance, the prediction for the 2017 season for NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” stands at 6.55, down from the 7.6 rating last year. The ratings estimate was even worse for “Thursday Night Football” on CBS which saw an estimate of 5.74 last yer compared to this year’s 4.70. The rest of the football offerings on the networks were no better.

“Advertisers’ commercial ratings predictions are culled by using estimates from three top media-buying agencies, which negotiate prices for and placement of billions of dollars in TV commercials each year,” the paper explained.

Granted these are only estimates and last year’s football season was up against some particular road blocks including the contentious political campaign and even the Chicago Cubs hitting the World Series for the first time in over 100 years. It isn’t certain just how much these national stories affected ratings last year, but the NFL for sure never recovered once San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started his anti-American protests at the beginning of the season.

What ever the causes were for last year’s decline, TV advertisers and buyers are not expecting any great uptick for the 2017-18 football season despite that the sport will likely have less competition for attention this season.

Football isn’t alone with its expected decline. Variety also found that the 2017 TV season estimates are seeing declining audiences for scripted TV shows, as well. In addition, despite the declines, football is still a top draw for the networks.

Still, the NFL’s ratings fell in eight out of ten games last year, according to Nielsen numbers.

“It adds up to a loss of 13.8 per cent and a gain of 2.9 per cent by window, or a loss of 13.3 per cent and a gain of 2.2 per cent by conference,” Awful Announcing reported in January.

And the New York Post added, “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 drop off in viewers in the past ten 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.”

So, if the estimates reported in Variety are any indication, the drop off will continue this year.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.

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