The NFL has continued to experience a ratings slump, but the reasons are likely more complicated than boycotts over several players’ refusal to stand for the national anthem before games.
The drop prompted comments from NFL Player’s Association executive director DeMaurice Smith, who told NBC’s ProFootballTalk that it’s a “huge concern” for his organization.
“We spend a lot of time looking at trends. I was thrilled to see the game being streamed on Twitter. We’re interested about where media is going,” he said. “Viewership is an important issue, stadium attendance is a very important issue to us. So as we look forward knowing that there are a couple of television contracts that are going to come up. I think it is smart for us to look at the impact of whether fans are watching on TV or not.”
According to a report from MediaPost, NBC’s showing of “Sunday Night Football” was down 14 percent, to 23.1 million viewers; it lost another 14 percent in the second week with 22.8 million views when the Green Bay Packers played the Minnesota Vikings, and another 7 percent to 20.6 million in the third week when the Chicago Bears played the Dallas Cowboys.
This past Monday, there was a significant drop for “Monday Night Football” which showed the Atlanta Falcons playing the New Orleans Saints. Only 8 million viewers, representing a 40 percent drop from the first week, when 13 million watched. That game was competing against the presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, which may have drawn as many as 100 million viewers.
As SB Nation noted, many of the prime-time games have been uncompetitive, which has likely hurt viewership. The nine games were decided by an average of 11.5 points.
Meanwhile, a lack of star power could also have made an impact. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is suspended until Week 5, and former Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning retired after last season.
Some viewers called for a boycott against the NFL in the wake of recent protests against the national anthem led by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.