The NFL’s Growing Ratings Problem by Aaron Jackson

This past week NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stepped up to the podium to talk to reporters, on a topic that is new to him: tanking NFL ratings. Despite a 10 percent drop in viewership this season, Goodell says he doesn’t think the league has lost viewers. Still, he’s trying to figure out why Americans are tuning out football. Being the kind hearted soul that I am, I thought I would lend him a helping hand. Here are five reasons for NFL TV ratings going below expectations.

1. The Colin Kaepernick effect: Protesting the National Anthem has made an impact. I won’t get into the political side of things here, because that’s not my place, what I will say is this story line is making a much bigger impact than people think. Yahoo/YouGov took a poll and found that 29 percent of NFL fans are watching less football than in years past. Of that 29 percent, 40 percent say it’s because of Kaepernick’s protests. That’s a big number.

2. Hypocrisy and Bad Decisions: I think at this point we all know about Deflategate so no need to rehash that. Every week the NFL makes discipline decisions that they seemingly pull out of a hat. Players have no idea what to expect, and fans that expect consistency find themselves frustrated and annoyed. Honestly? The NFL has become tone deaf. To pursue Deflategate at the level they did while completely ignoring issues like Giants kicker Josh Brown’s domestic abuse is terrible. And don’t get me started on how they charged the government $5.4 million to honor soldiers, or the fact that they sell merchandise with pink on it for Breast Cancer Awareness, while only giving 8 percent of that money to the American Cancer Society according to Business Insider. In other words, they’re turning a big profit on cancer awareness.

3. Too Many Days: Now you can watch NFL football on Thursday, Sunday and Monday. You can also now wake up and watch football a few times a year at 9:30am Eastern Time. I know I’ve heard people say that you can never have too much of a good thing, but I think I’m there at this point. I just don’t have the time to invest in watching 4 hours of football Monday and Thursday while also devoting an entire day to football on Sunday.

4. Parity: It’s no secret the NFL has been trying for years to create parity in its product. Each week they want fans to be unsure of who will win each game. Honestly, I think they’ve mostly succeeded. Other than the Patriots, is there another team out there you are confident will win week in and week out? The answer is likely no. The problem with that is, while everyone says they want competitive games, at the end of the day people want to see greatness. You can’t have greatness when every single team is decidedly mediocre. Just look at Sunday night’s game between Arizona and Seattle as a great example. The game is tied at 3. Yes, 3. 50 seconds left in the 4th quarter and the ball at midfield. Two teams on the field that many think are Super Bowl contenders. The Seahawks have 3 straight holding penalties. They opt to let the clock run out instead of trying to win. Arizona has timeouts and lets them do it. So what should be the most exciting moments of the game amounts to two teams standing on a field watching the clock run out. AND THEN THEY ENDED IN A 6-6 TIE, after both kickers missed game winning chip shots that even Garo Yapremian couldn’t have botched. That’s not even mediocrity, that’s just bad football and ultimately, bad TV.

5. Too Many Pieces of The Pie: I’ve already mentioned how the games are being spread out throughout the week. The problem is that attention spans are also becoming shorter and shorter. Add to that there are more ways to watch what you want, anytime you want (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, YouTube etc..) and it’s no wonder the NFL ratings are dropping. More and more people are cutting the cord from cable and satellite and simply streaming on demand content. The NFL has not been very user friendly in this regard. You want to stream their games? Not unless you have NFL Sunday Ticket, which requires DIRECTV. Sure, you can also pay $50 bucks a month for the web version, but that won’t get you any games inside your particular market. Which is why most people would buy it.

There you go Roger. Hope this helps. Actually, I hope it doesn’t. I think it’s just about time for a change at the top. Nothing gets that done like a hit to rating and the checkbook.

Aaron Headshot NewAaron Jackson (@AaronRJackson on Twitter) is a co-host on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.