NFL Viewership Collapses Among Older White Viewers, Drives 2017 Ratings Crash

GTY Colts Protest
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Who would have thought that alienating over 60 percent of the country would backfire?

Last week, we learned that 2017 NFL viewership had fallen by 10 percent over the previous year. Nor did things show any sign of improvement during the first weekend of the NFL’s postseason, when ratings fell by 13 percent from 2016.

However, thanks to Nielsen Data Media Research over the last two years, we can now see exactly where the NFL has lost the most support, and which groups have led the way in the NFL’s ratings demise.

From that chart, one can see that while the NFL has had huge losses across all age groups over the last two years, the league has been hit particularly hard by losses among young people in the 18-49, and 18-34 year old demos.

The numbers don’t get a whole lot better for the NFL when accounting for race. While losses in viewership among Asian and Latino viewers-for the most part-remained steady with their 2016 numbers, losses among blacks and whites revealed a much larger problem.

As Awful Announcing explains, “Black viewers in the demo – people who were going to pose the biggest challenge to the #NFLBlackout push that began over last summer – made up ground as the season progressed, but still posted slight declines. Latinx 55+ viewership was the lone area of stability for the ethnic group as it was totally unchanged from 2016. (Spanish-language network broadcasts, however, were not measured for this article.)

“The low point, as was the case in 2016, resides among older white fans. The percentages are smaller than their younger counterparts, but that loss of over 450,000 still stings. Those missing fans make up 95% of the ratings decline of all viewers above 55 years old.”

What does that all mean?

To put this all in greater perspective, 85% of the lost total viewership (1.5 million fans, including kids and teenagers) for 2017 comes from white NFL fans. In one way, it’s better than in 2016 where white fans made up 95% of that loss. In another, it’s proof that the minority fan base is completely overlooked as they tripled their share of the decline.

With an infusion of new blood in the playoffs thanks to Buffalo, Jacksonville and the Los Angeles Rams, the NFL and their broadcast partners are thirsting for new, far better ratings stories. It may be a challenge to shatter viewership records without Green Bay, Dallas, or a Manning brother. Heck, we may see America’s love for football tested with the mere possibility of a Jaguars/Falcons Super Bowl a month from now. Despite being the most popular entertainment company in America, with its playoffs set to capture national attention, the National Football League is still on the outs with plenty of sports fans from coast to coast.

Given these numbers, it’s impossible to overlook how disastrous the NFL anthem protest movement has been to the league’s popularity. These Nielsen numbers cover the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Which means, they cover the entire lifespan of the anthem protest movement. White viewers, particularly older white viewers, are the most likely fans to be turned off by the player-led protests.

The fact that this particular demographic-older white viewers-has led the way in abandoning the NFL over the exact timeline of the protests, is no accident. It’s a result, an obvious one, which should have been foreseen by those whose job it is to foresee it.



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