Roger Goodell downplays significance of NFL ratings drop
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is seeking to highlight the league’s continued dominance on television while downplaying the significance of how ratings have dropped in the past year.
“We always want ratings to go up, but we’re 37 of the top 50 shows, which is higher than ever,” Goodell told reporters before the Jacksonville Jaguars-Buffalo Bills Wild Card game on Sunday. “We’re likely to be the No. 1 show on Fox — excuse me, on all of television — the Fox Sunday afternoon game. Sunday night primetime is, for the seventh year in a row, the No. 1 show. ‘Thursday Night Football’ is No. 2.”
Goodell is indeed correct that the NFL remains a television juggernaut despite a slip in overall ratings, as he also pointed out NFL games comprised 20 of the 30 top-rated broadcasts on all of television in 2017.
“I think dominance of the NFL in television is still very clear,” Goodell said.
However, numbers registered by Nielsen and obtained by ESPN indicate NFL television ratings declined 9.7 percent during the 2017 regular season, which indicates 1.6 million fewer people were watching a typical NFL game broadcast (down to 14.9 million from 16.5 million viewers).
The presumption is that controversies such as the national anthem protest movement has left a segment of NFL fans soured on the game, leading to the ratings decline. Along with the protest controversy, a growing contingent of fans are becoming more wary of following the game due as they become more cognizant of the inherent risks to playing football, specifically devastating brain trauma due to head injuries and concussions.
The fact remains, though, that the NFL’s ratings decline must be viewed through the lens of how television viewership is radically changing overall due to cord-cutting and changing habits.
Goodell also highlighted how the NFL is attempting to keep up with the times and how content is consumed.
“We always want to figure out how to expand our audiences, and that’s why we’re doing things with Verizon, we’re doing things … with Amazon,” Goodell said. “Those types of things are how we’re reaching more consumers and that’s a transition and that’s something that we’re putting a lot of focus on.”