The 2016 presidential election is nine days away, and Donald Trump decided to do me a solid and mention Colin Kaepernick at his latest rally in Colorado. Trump was talking about how the Denver Broncos were playing the same time as his speech, and he was asking his people if they would get enough people to the speech. His people told him they would have sold out his speech many times over, and that led to this riff on the NFL’s declining TV ratings. You can watch it below, but here is a transcription of his ratings comments.
“I don’t know if you know, but the NFL is way down in their ratings. And you know why? Two reasons. Number one is, this politics they’re finding is a much rougher game than football, and more exciting. And it’s, honestly, we’ve taken a lot of people away from the NFL. And the other reason is Kaepernick. Kaepernick. And.....that’s fine.”
NFL ratings are down this season. Prime time games are the bigger issue, but it is my understanding the 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. slots are also seeing some decline. Some people claim Colin Kaepernick’s protest is turning off people in huge numbers. I don’t doubt that there are people who see the protests around the league and have decided not to watch. To say nobody has stopped watching because of the protests would be a foolish statement.
That being said, I don’t think that is nearly as big a part of the ratings decline as some would have you think. A couple weeks ago, The Ringer’s Kevin Clark did some digging on the ratings decline. His research suggested bigger issues include saturation of the game during the week and the declining number of notable superstars. The election is likely impacting things to some extent because of how much oxygen it is sucking up. And I have to think cord cutting is impacting things to a certain degree.
One FOX Sports executive said that over the first month of the season, the Sunday morning and afternoon windows were relatively flat for ratings. He also said that although the same number of people were tuning in, they are doing so for less time. The article explains that, “ratings are calculated based on the average number of viewers at each minute of the game.” It is possible that is also impacting ratings.
The NFL has continued to grow and grow, and a couple years ago, NBA owner Mark Cuban suggested they were growing too much and were eventually going to kill the golden goose. I don’t think they are killing it quite yet, but I do think the NFL is trending the wrong way. I feel like the league lacks creativity and nuance. They see how much they have grown and figure they can do no wrong. That is being proven otherwise with these declining ratings.
People can blame Kaepernick or politics or a questionable product, but the NFL needs to figure things out sooner rather than later. They have a cushion giving them time to analyze the situation and come up with some productive solutions. The NFL does not exactly give me reasons to be optimistic they will stop being so stubborn about a variety of things, but maybe we’ll get lucky and they’ll get their head out of their [site decorum].