While there are many variables that could be causing this -- new streaming devices and applications that give play-by-play scoring updates, NFL Network’s all-encompassing Sunday Football content, fantasy football putting a focus on player results rather than the viewing action, the DVR and the fact that Americans overall do so much more activities on the weekends than they did years ago -- most media outlets are attributing it to America’s adverse reaction to the Colin Kaepernick-inspired protests that have been taking place in the NFL.
According to sportingnews.com, a poll released by Republican-leaning research team Rasmussen Reports seems to support the notion.
“The #Boycott NFL movement.” says sportingnews.com, “is strongest among politically conservative fans who are more likely to see Kaepernick's refusal to salute the flag/anthem as an insult to police/U.S. military rather than a cry for racial justice.”
Some journalists such as Forbes.com's @MikeOzanian have legitimized this train of thought in commentary, supporting the idea that the protests are the major force driving down NFL ratings and disenchanting fans.
Ozanian wrote: "Two weeks ago I wrote it is starting to look like disrespecting the country during the national anthem is accomplishing what the concussions, domestic violence and deflategate could not do–drive down television ratings for the National Football League.
Through two weeks of football, the NFL’s television ratings are down across the board. The drop in ratings and viewership is unprecedented in recent years and has occurred during the protest of the national anthem, started by San Francisco 49ers backup QB Colin Kaepernick. Just last year some opined that the league’s ratings had no ceiling. That appears to be false."
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TV ratings for NBC's "Sunday Night Football," the top-rated prime-time show for five years running, are down 10 percent, according to SportsBusiness Daily. CBS' "Thursday Night Football" numbers, meanwhile, are off 15 percent from last year.
ESPN's "Monday Night Football" numbers are down 19 percent. Despite having a team from the nation's largest TV market, overnight ratings for last Monday's Giants vs. Vikings game were down eight percent, according to @SportsTVRatings.
However, this NFL ratings decline has been going on for a decade.
Besides, sportsbusinessdaily.com says, “It’s not just the NFL. The Summer Olympics on NBC were down double digits in viewership from the London Games.
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ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” posted its lowest viewership average in at least a decade. Six NASCAR races from Aug. 21 to Sept. 25 logged double-digit viewership drops in race-to-race comparisons. Four prime-time UFC telecasts on Fox registered a combined 10 percent viewership drop this year."
These numbers support the many other natural factors that have caused TV and cable ratings in particular -- seen as a primitive form of exchanging content in the eyes of some advanced technological minds and millennials-- to drop.
Blame The Black man
It’s very convenient to attribute a continual NFL TV ratings drop to one man not standing for the national anthem based on some very valid points, but I haven’t heard too many people saying they are going to boycott watching games.
It's 2016 and the world is changing, even for me as a 41-year-old father of two kids. I cover sports for a living and it’s still impossible for me to sit and just watch games all day as I did before my son became a three-sport athlete and my daughter started doing commercials, going on auditions, loving theater, playing soccer and running track.
The ever-increasing technological ability to disseminate information and content to large groups of people quickly and effectively have definitely changed the game as far as how people receive their content. Sitting at home or even at the bar and watching the game is actually becoming kind of old school now.
The conversations that occur on social media, the FB updates and twitter accounts are all some casual fans need to stay abreast of NFL activity. Years ago, watching the game was their only option for live scoring updates and spending time with loved ones.
The apps and video highlights of game action allow fathers to avoid having to make that pivotal and potentially disastrous family decision; football game or dance recital?
He can go to the recital, cheer for his baby girl and still stay informed about the game up to the second.
Blaming national anthem protests for the NFL’s declining ratings also doesn’t mesh with the positive financial impact Kaepernick’s protest has had on the 49ers and the visibility of the NFL, as his jersey sales skyrocketed to No. 1 in the league after he first sat for the national anthem and the entire situation went viral.
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Added sportingnews.com: “...many experts might dismiss the survey as politically biased.”
According to Rasmussen's telephone/online survey of 1,000 American adults conducted Oct. 2-3, nearly one-third (32 percent) of adults say they're less likely to watch NFL game telecasts because of the Kaepernick-led player protests against racial injustice.
Only 13 percent said they were more likely to watch because of continuing protests by Kaepernick and supporters such as Antonio Cromartie of the Colts (who was cut only two days after raising a fist during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" in London last Sunday).
More than half (52 percent) say the protests have no impact on their decision to watch NFL games on NBC, Fox, CBS, ESPN and NFL Network this season.
When broken down along racial lines, Rasmussen’s poll also reveals that roughly 28 percent of African-American respondents say they're more likely to tune in to an NFL game because of the protests vs. only 8 percent of whites and 16 percent of minorities. Whites are twice as likely as minorities to say they're less likely to watch NFL game telecasts this season.
Blame Brady and Manning
I don’t know if I’m buying this.
I tend to side with NFL PR spinners who say the injuries to key superstars and lack of powerhouse matchups has hurt ratings. Not everyone watches the game the same way. Some diehard NFL fans watch the product on the field and pledge to the team colors. Others root for specific players and their support follows the individual.
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The departure of Peyton Manning and his magnetic drawing power and the suspension of Tom Brady would be more plausible reasons for a ratings drop this season if you want to attribute it to any player.
We will need a much bigger sample to actually attribute any drop or increase in ratings to anything relating to silent protests by NFL players.
The perfect test would be for the 49ers to start Kaepernick and then see if the national ratings go up or down for the game he’s playing in. Most likely we'd see a surge in ratings, which would make the math in Rasmussen's poll pretty fuzzy.