According to some numbers, the NFL is a dying league. The first game of the season saw a 9-year low in ratings as the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles played an almost exact replica of their playoff game from last season. This dip in viewership attracted the attention of many market research groups. “The bigger question is why and how have sports defied gravity for so long,” Pivotal Research Group’s Senior Analyst Brian Weiser said, adding that broadcasting the NFL had “high fixed costs.” “At the end of the day, people are using their TV sets less than they used to.”
The first Sunday of the NFL regular season told a different tale than the opening Thursday. With network television viewership as whole declining at an alarming rate for all the major networks, the numbers are showing the NFL ratings to be declining at a slower rate. So despite the controversy surrounding the National Football League this season, it appears as if the majority of fans are still tuning in to the games.
The way most media outlets cover the ratings of the NFL one would think the league is either taking its last breath or is stronger than ever. Rarely is something as simple as that, the world of sports and entertainment is more nuanced than that.
Week Two of the 2018 NFL season showed a consistent increase from 2017’s Week Two across all the major networks. This may be due to the lesser amount of protests reported pre-game or simple just an increase in the quality of the match-ups this week. Another drop in viewership could simply mean the audience is tired of sub-par commentary as seen in both Week One Monday Night Football games.
CBS Chief Executive Les Moonves isn’t worried about the drop-off in the ratings, saying, “I think the NFL is still the best property on television.” Regardless, most media outlets will continue to report the week constant ebb and flow of football’s market share. It will almost always be a huge story. Unless the ratings go up again. Or down. Or up… etc. etc. ad nauseam.
Chart based on Nielsen Media Research; 2015-17 NFL regular seasons; Live+Same Day, nationally-televised broadcasts only (CBS, FOX, NBC, ESPN – Excluding NFL Network)
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