The NFL has been the most popular professional sports league for the past 20 years. The sport has continued to catch on in new markets and countries across the globe and is now considered one of the most dominant and profitable sports leagues in the world. Due to the popularity, the league has continued to have very high TV ratings, which has led to multi-billion dollar contracts from TV stations including NBC, ESPN, and CBS. While the ratings for NFL games are still by far the highest among professional sports, there are concerns about a potential drop in TV ratings.
According to a recent study and report done by UBS Media, the NFL is looking like it could have a drop in overall ratings this year. The main barometer for this was low ratings during the first preseason game of 2017 (Hall of Fame Game) where new members of the Hall of Fame are announced. During this game, an estimate 7.7 million people watched the game live. While this may seem like a lot for a preseason football game, it was an 18% drop compared to the average from 2013 through 2015. Furthermore, ratings were disappointing given the game featured the Dallas Cowboys, which is one of the most popular teams in the league.
While ratings for the Hall of Fame game were down, there are other ratings that were up. During Week 1 of the NFL preseason, the average ratings were up 16% compared to the prior year. Another positive indicator is from the Hard Knocks program, which is on HBO. The ratings for this year’s version are up over 30% compared to the prior year.
While the ratings for the upcoming season are yet to be determined and preseason is not always a good indicator, the league is clearly concerned about drops that were experienced last year. During the 2016 NFL season, ratings were down about 10% overall and 20% during the popular Monday Night Football broadcast. Both of these were shocking drops, but there are a lot of explanations of what could have caused the drop.
During the 2016 season, the largest explanation is that the league had to compete against the Presidential Election, which drew very high ratings for news channels. While the NFL will not have to compete with an election this year, there are other factors that could affect viewership. Many fans of the league have mentioned that they were not satisfied with how the league has handled a variety of issues, including player conduct issues and the recent concussion investigations. Furthermore, many fans are now more focused on watching fantasy football broadcasts, which take away from in-game viewership.
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