NFL ratings plunge could spell doom for traditional TV


Football, America’s biggest prime-time powerhouse, has been thrust into a crisis this fall, with dwindling ratings sparking questions over whether it can remain a gold mine for television in an age when more Americans are abandoning traditional TV.

Network executives have long used the National Football League’s live games as a last line of defense against the rapid growth of “cord-cutting” and on-demand viewing upending the industry.

But now, the NFL is seeing its ratings tumble in the same way that the Olympics, awards shows and other live events have, falling more than 10 percent for the first five weeks of the season compared with the first five weeks of last season. A continued slide, executives say, could pose an even bigger danger: If football can’t survive the new age of TV, what can?



It likely has far more to do with flag protests, than it being traditional tv. Football fans are often highly patriotic.

Go here:


traditional tv? I for one could care less if the NFL went away. The super bowl with the stupid sexualized half time show, the stupid commercials (except the horses, the frogs and the Doritos ultrasound baby) and the way they sexualize women in cheer-leading.

I find other programs to watch other than the NFL - baseball if my team is playing or The Flash, Supergirl or Once Upon a Time or Last Man standing. NO NFL at all…

I don’t think it would affect the Olympics because those athletes are not overpaid billionaires who refuse to stand when the anthem starts to play and the flag is there for gold medalists. They often have tears in their eyes while the anthem plays.


I think what we’re seeing here is a repeat of what happened when our society made the transition from radio (as the primary electronic media) to TV. People stopped listening to sports on the radio, and transitioned to watching them instead.

I enjoy watching NFL football. I’m not a huge fan who can rattle off statistics and such, but I do like it. About 3 seasons ago, I subscribed to the season-pass and now I watch the games on Apple TV. I think it’s great. First, there are no commercial breaks, although they still show the commercial spots that happen inside the broadcast (such as “our first quarter stats are brought to you by the Acme mousetrap company”). The other advantage is that I get access to every game, rather than being limited to what the channels in my area choose to broadcast.

Right now, the price is reasonable. I don’t know what the future will hold. Will more subscribers cause the cost to go down, or will increased popularity mean that it will go up? I don’t know if that can be predicted. I have noticed that over the years the cost of buying broadcast shows (like sitcoms and dramas) has gone up as popularity increases. It used to be that a typical season cost about $20 ten years ago, but now many new shows are going for $50.

Before someone says that it can be predicted, I recall reading an article a few years ago by a TV executive (one who was certainly an expert in the field), where he said that streaming services were just a passing fad that will never work and basically that anyone who thinks they will work is just a fool who doesn’t know anything about the TV industry.

So, the bottom line is this: the way we watch television is changing. That’s inevitable. The public is not going to go backwards and give-up the DVRs and the streaming devices. The NFL, and other sports leagues are going to have to find ways to make that transition. Personally, I think they will.


This is 100% because of the protests! The NFL should have never allowed it!


I agree.

The NFL has spent the last couple decades trying to increase its patriot credentials, and they constantly honor the military at most games, and now they do nothing and say nothing when players protest the flag. They are allowing the very audience they developed to feel insulted. Not smart at all.

The other issue is simpler: they have watered down the game with too many days played each week (Sunday, Sunday night, Monday night, and Thursday night)–it seems in the fall it is wall-to–wall NFL.


Well I’m graduating university this year and am off to a (hopefully) successful year as an Occupational Therapist. I do not currently have a cable subscription, and I can’t say I’ve thought about getting one when I have the money. Why bother? Netflix is more convenient, cheaper, commercial free and on demand even if the selection can be pretty lackluster. If I really, really want to watch a television show that I can’t get through Netflix, I’ll just buy the season.


I doubt that the anthem protests are THE reason. Could be A reason, but not even close to the only one.

How about the fact that quality of play seems to down this season? What about bad prime time matchups? Boring games that a lot of fans just don’t really care about.

While fans will ALWAYS watch THEIR team (I’ll NEVER stop watching mine), can ANYONE give me one single compelling must-see matchup in prime time so far this season?

The on-field product has as much to do with a decline in ratings as anything. I’m not staying up to watch Buffalo vs. the New York Jets on a Thursday night. A garbage game that means NOTHING to most fans on a Thursday night. And those two teams share the AFC East with my favorite team. I couldn’t have cared any less about watching that game. My time is too valuable to watch that game. If it was Denver vs. Pittsburgh, I would have tuned in for a bit until I had to go to bed.

How about the lack of superstar marquee quarterbacks? Since Peyton Manning retired, how many of THOSE are there? Three? Four? Tom Brady (at 39 years old!); Aaron Rodgers; Drew Brees; and then who? Maybe Russell Wilson? Andrew Luck hasn’t turned out to be a huge success and he doesn’t put eyeballs on the TV screen.

There are a lot of reasons.

The NFL will bounce back. It always does. I think “Thursday Night Football” is a bad idea. One prime time game (two, if you count Sunday night) during the work week is plenty. Just not enough good matchups to go around.


I agree. I don’t know how much of a factor it is for others, but for me the length of the games make them less attractive. Football just takes way too long and has too many commercials. The game has even been transformed to have more breaks, and thus take longer, to accommodate TV commercials. It has been in some way made for TV. The same is true for basketball. Since I don’t have cable and the only things I watch have either a short commercial at the beginning or no commercials suddenly being subjected to the constant stoppage and commercials of the NFL is not enjoyable. I wonder if the game itself will have to change as new ways of watching entertainment change what people find tolerable.


And that’s the future of television.

Industries, whether those are the networks, sports, advertisers, etc., will either make the transition, or they won’t. Streaming TV isn’t going away, it’s only going to grow.


That’s exactly why I am willing to pay for the annual subscription. No commercial breaks. Each game takes about 2 hours. It’s exactly the same show as the live version. There is also a condensed version available that I do not like because it omits plays that are deemed insignificant—others might like that.


Well I’m an NFL and College Football fan.

I watch as many games as I can fit into my schedule.

Anyway, the new rules on high hits, defensive pass interference and offensive pass interference, is making the games controlled by the refs with subjective penalties.

We’re actually seeing more knee injuries than we ever saw before, because defensive players don’t want to receive a penalty for high hits. So, they hit low. Happened to a number of key players across the NFL since this rule was made.

My advice, go back to the rules before Roger Goodell became commissioner, and in the process, get rid of him.

Otherwise, the NFL will become akin to the NBA as fouls have been subjective for a long time.



I’m just glad to see a devout football fan on this forum! I think some would argue that it’s not holy to watch sports. Which I think is just crazy…


The actual game of football is amazing with strategy and strength! I see nothing unholy about that


If the NFL is losing ratings, BRAVO!

Maybe fans will take up some penance instead.

Yeah, I know that won’t happen, but still…



I’m from st Louis - we have no NFL team, thanks to a greedy owner. I swore I wouldn’t watch any games this season and I definitely watch way less but I just like the game too much to give it up completely. I haven’t adopted a team yet. We were a Nielsen rating family for about a year and if we still were, I would be watching no games so the ratings would reflect my disgust.



I actually see a benefit to the Thursday night games, which do tend to be (shall we say) on the less-than-exciting end of the spectrum.

If that were a Sunday game, most viewers who don’t have a particular interest in either team would simply watch a different game. By isolating that game, they get the viewers who are going to watch any football game that happens to be available. So a game will get more viewers by the simple fact that it’s the only one available. Since it’s a division game, the Bills and Jets are going to play each other twice every season, no matter what, so why not move such a game outside of the prime-slot (Sunday afternoon) where it will get a low priority and into an otherwise unused time-slot?

Of course, there’s really no way of reliably predicting boring games with enough lead time to make for practical scheduling, and sometimes the Thursday games actually do turn out to be exciting.

On a rare week when I actually have the opportunity to watch all the Sunday/Monday games via streaming, I’ll still watch the Thursday game, even if it takes me until Saturday night to get to that point.

So that’s a long way of saying that I think the Thursday games is a good idea.

Maybe if the NFL started scheduling games they know will have reliable viewership regardless of the current status of the teams (like traditional rivalries which fans are going to watch no matter how much their favorite teams are losing) they could turn a ‘ho hum I’ll watch it if I have nothing else to do’ situation into something that might really boost viewership. Just wondering…


Penance for what? What collective sins have football fans committed?


Everybody needs penance.

If there’s no time for penance, there will be time for Purgatory.



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