The NFL just can't buy a break.
Although there were a few decent games over the past weekend — including the crazy, last-second win by Minnesota — ratings for America's football league dropped once again.
Viewership has been down all year, due to both the player protests during the national anthem and a whole lot of boring games. But NFL owners were hoping the playoffs would end all that.
No such luck. The Wild Card round two weekends ago saw ratings drop 13% over last year (and the games were pretty crummy). Then last weekend, for the divisional playoff games, ratings for all four games fell to their lowest point in almost a decade, according to NBC.
The good news, if there is any, comes from the fact that the 21.8 rating generated by the Saints-Vikings in the late afternoon/early evening slot was only 0.1 lower than the 21.9 for Steelers-Chiefs last January, even though that game was played in prime time. The bad news is that the apples-to-apples comparison — the late-afternoon Sunday game between the Packers and Cowboys — churned a 28.2.
The Jaguars-Steelers game played at 1:05 p.m. ET posted a 20.4, the lowest overnight rating in that window in 15 years.
For the Saturday games, the 17.4 rating coming from Falcons-Eagles was down from last year’s 18.3 from the Seahawks-Falcons contest; that’s the lowest since Ravens-Titans in that same spot drew a 17.0 in early 2009. The 16.6 overnight for the Titans-Patriots game on Saturday night was the lowest since Cardinals-Panthers in early 2009.
The NFL has pulled strong numbers for years, including Thursday and Monday nights, along with the two Sunday night games. But not so this year — the year of the national anthem protests. "Favorable" ratings for the NFL have dropped to 44% from 57% from the end of August to the end of September. During the same period, the "unfavorable" rating has risen to 40%, according to the Winston Group survey.
A recent survey also found that 33% of NFL fans have totally boycotted the league this year, according to SurveyMonkey and Ozy Media.
The survey then asked the football fans: “Did you purposely stop watching or attending NFL games this season for any reason?” 33% of respondents said yes.
That group, which the survey labeled as “boycotting,” was asked why, and was given multiple options. Note: Respondents were allowed to select multiple answers; they were not asked which was the biggest factor, just which factors contributed.
They answered as follows: 32% said they stopped watching or attending NFL games “in support of Donald Trump”; 22% said “in solidarity with players kneeling”; 13% said “no interest in the teams playing”; 12% said “in support of Colin Kaepernick”; and 11% said “news about traumatic brain injuries among players.” Another 8% said “games are boring.” 46% chose “some other reason.”