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Top Five Reasons NFL Ratings Are Down

The NFL has been king for a very long time. I was never one to believe in rumors or white noises before, but what I saw on the news last night shocked me. Major League Baseball trumped Sunday Night Football.

It wasn’t just any Sunday night game, It was the Dallas Cowboys vs the Philadelphia Eagles. The Cowboys defeated the Eagles in overtime, but it wasn’t enough to trump the drama of Game 5. Hell, the Walking Dead got beat out by  the World Series.  Has baseball finally dethrone the king? Probably not but it’s time to address the elephant in the room. The ratings are dropping and we need to understand why.

There’s no doubt that the 2016 World Series has some extra juice to it, as the Chicago Cubs have a chance to win their first World Series since 1908 while the Cleveland Indians have a chance to end their own 68-year drought. But even playoff baseball historically loses out to regular-season NFL games in primetime, which makes the World Series’ victory over the NFL striking.

The NFL has faced a flurry of negative off-field stories in recent years, including domestic violence and DeflateGate. Most recently, the national anthem protests led by Colin Kaepernick have sparked a backlash whose true size is relatively unknown. Domestic violence is also an off-field issue with baseball players, but a backlash to national anthem protests (and, obviously, DeflateGate) are problems that only exist in football.

There are a large number of problems affecting prime time football, and now it’s losing out to on-field products that it routinely beats when put up against them. It’s hard to blame election coverage when baseball’s ratings have improved and even the NBA’s opening night saw a 10 percent improvement over last season.

Thursday Night Football Is Awful 

It’s not good football. If it were good football, the league wouldn’t need to concoct some phony “color rush” gimmick to try to get people to watch. Players are not recovered from Sunday’s bruises. Game plans are simplified. And because every team must play a Thursday game, the match ups often stink. The average margin of victory in Thursday night games this season is 14.4 points. It is — largely — unwatchable.

Not Many Good Teams 

This problem has been apparent to some of us for a few years, but the issue is that despite the league’s insistence that parity exists, very few teams are actually Super Bowl contenders. It’s the same teams in the mix every year. It’s a Haves/Have Nots league, and the bad teams are bad. Meanwhile in a related story, this week the 2-6 Chicago Bears just played  their third prime-time game in a seven week  span.

Anti Social / No  Fun League

The league has a bad reputation for being a corporation that would prefer its “stars” to be nameless, faceless, and above all, replaceable. Throwing 15-yard penalties for the most harmless of celebrations doesn’t do anything to dispel that perception.

Millennials Don’t Watch TV

Less Television Is Being Watched. There are so many entertainment options that people are using their time in alternative ways. Nielsen reports an 11% drop in overall traditional television watching. The younger generation is less wedded to television–the younger than 24 generation watches 40% less television. Appealing to these younger potential viewers and fans is a challenge the NFL must face.

The NFL Themselves 

I love my NFL Redzone channel. I no longer have to watch an entire game on my television. With the Redzone channel, I simply get scoring play within the 20 yard line and the end zone. We also have fantasy football. Younger fans no longer follow teams,  they follow players.

The NFL can no longer not talk about these issues. There are ways to correct the decline in viewership but it starts with acknowledgement. The product on the field has to get better. The NFL needs to realize today’s fans are smarter and have more options. We are bloggers, activist, and content curators. In this new social media world , we all have a voice. It’s time the NFL understand that and do better by the fans.

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