Why Are NFL Ratings Down?

I heard someone mention this, and I was a bit surprised. (I understand Trump made some comments about this and other NFL topics, but I didn’t bother reading them.) I have no idea if this is true, but if this is, why do you guys think this is the case?

I actually feel my enthusiasm for the NFL diminishing a bit, but I have no idea if this is the same reason others aren’t watching the NFL as much. Indeed, if I had to guess, I’d say the reason(s) is probably different. For me, the first thing that comes to mind is the number of injuries, particularly season-ending injuries that seem to occur before the the first regular season! The frequency seems so high that I feel like any key player or players could go down at any time. By the end, many of the teams that make it will likely be missing several important players. To me, this is a big turn off, and I must confess it’s mostly for selfish and superficial reasons: namely, it ruins the quality of competition, and even legitimacy of some of the games, if that’s the right way to describe it. If a team is missing several starters, one or two of them really important players, if a team beats them is that a legitimate victory? Injuries are part of the game, but if there are two many injuries, to too many key players, it weakens the meaningfulness of the games. Or at least I start feeling that way.

And maybe I wouldn’t if the quality of the play seemed high. That leads to the other issue for me–the quality of the offensive line (OL) play and how that affects the quality of play overall. To me, terrible OL play makes the game almost unwatchable.

By the way, I don’t think the officiating is much of a problem (although the way I watch games in condensed version and sometimes I don’t pay much attention to the penalties). I actually think the officiating is a lot better than a few years ago, when they seemed to call every defensive hold or pass interference. It’s a lot better since them. But I wonder if scoring is down. I don’t notice as many defensive holding calls that bail out offenses, so maybe that has lead to less scoring. If so, that might explain why TV ratings are down.

Any thoughts? Is the NFL less appealing to watch for you? If so, why?

5 Responses to “Why Are NFL Ratings Down?”


  1. Mitchell

    The numbers were down a lot for the first half of last season, but by the end of the regular season, viewership had caught up to previous seasons’ numbers. They blamed a lot of that on the election (numbers go down in election years). I think it has more to do with the quality of football, but that’s as deep as I’ll go. Your average fan doesn’t think about OL play or season-ending injuries except as they affect their own favorite teams. Nobody’s turning off the TV with injuries as the reason; they turn off the TV because the games are boring or not compelling. That might be why the numbers went up in the second part of last season: the storylines had developed, and it was easier to find compelling games.

  2. Reid

    Nobody’s turning off the TV with injuries as the reason; they turn off the TV because the games are boring or not compelling.

    I was going to agree with this, but also raise the question about a link between injuries and the degree to which games are interesting. That is, are games less interesting because there are so many injuries. I don’t know the answer to that.

    I just thought of another questions, if we broke up NFL fans into different categories, what would the percentages of the entire fan base represent. For example, here are some possible categories:

    1. Fans of the hometown team;
    2. Fans of NFL in general;
    3. Fans because of fantasy football;
    4. Casual viewers

    I have no idea how to break this up in terms of percentages, and maybe there are other categories I’m missing, but this might be a way to answer the question. For example, if fans of fantasy football make up a large percentage of the viewership, then maybe many are losing interest in fantasy football, or maybe the players aren’t producing much fantasy points.

    That might be why the numbers went up in the second part of last season: the storylines had developed, and it was easier to find compelling games.

    The presence or absence of interesting narratives never crossed my mind, but I could see that being a factor.

  3. don

    I wonder how the ratings are measured. My guess is that ratings are based on an average of the games that are on TV across the US? Can they measure guys like Reid that are on NFL pass, or the DirectTV NFL package. I believe with the new DirectTV package you can watch games on your phone or mobile device? They also showed some of the games online.

    I’ll also add, I wonder if the ratings for all TV shows aren’t down, with so many more options (ie: Netflix, Hulu, online, and etc) growing all the time. I’m pretty sure the NFL Sunday (not Monday anymore) games are in the top ten of highest rated TV shows every year.

  4. Reid

    If they’re only talking about TV ratings, not game pass and other paid forms for watching the NFL, that would be a big oversight to me, but it’s a valid question to raise.

    I also wonder if streaming sites have cut down on NFL watching or sports in general.

  5. Mitchell

    The ratings have a thing called something like “ratings +7,” and they do take into consideration people’s DVRing content, or watching it on other devices. In fact, watching through a streaming service is the most accurate measure of all, since almost always one stream equals one person, whereas one TV can mean many people. The “+7” part means people who watched recorded content within 7 days of broadcast, although that probably doesn’t really apply for football, since few people like to watch sporting events more than a day after they’re played.

You can add images to your comment by clicking here.