On a Night with No Protests, NFL Ratings Spike 26 Percent for Thursday Night Football

AP Lynne Sladky Fans Protest
AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

The NFL just learned a tremendously useful lesson, which will serve them well if they choose to apply it. What is that lesson? Simply this: if you don’t insult the country, more people will watch your games.

On Thursday Night Football, not a single player for the Buccaneers or Patriots protested during the playing of the national anthem. On Friday, CBS and the NFL Network announced that ratings for the game were up 26 points from last year’s Week 5 Thursday Night Football game.

There are a few explanations for the huge increase in numbers. First, last year’s game was a relative dud between a good-but-not-great Seattle team, and Arizona playing their first game without Carson Palmer. Last night featured Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champs against one of the best, most exciting young quarterbacks in the league, in Jameis Winston.

That factor alone accounts for a huge share of the increase.

However, it cannot be ignored that NFL players dramatically reduced their wildly unpopular anthem protests last weekend. Nor can it be ignored, that not a single player from either team protested last night. Some in the sports media will attempt to sell CBS’ ratings boom as a conservative narrative buster. Essentially saying Thursday night proves that reports of the NFL’s demise are greatly exaggerated.

On the contrary, what happened Thursday night is a conservative narrative enforcer. Virtually every right-leaning pundit who has looked at the NFL’s anthem debacle has said, that the protests were driving fans away and that if the NFL wanted them back, the protests would have to end.

Well, that’s what happened on Thursday night.

To be clear, there were other factors that led to the ratings surge for CBS. We mentioned Tom Brady, and the gane was a better overall match-up. Those factors account for part of the ratings boost, but in no way can they account for all of the 26 percent increase. The other half of the explanation can be found in what those of us on the right have said since early last year: insulting you customer base and denigrating everything they love and believe in, is an extremely poor business model. Fix that, and things might change for you.

Continue fixing that, and things will continue to change for the better.



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