NFL Ratings Continue to Plummet

More stories from Nathan Giocondo


With just more than half of the NFL season complete, it’s not going as smoothly as some would hope. The NFL has reigned supreme for many years in terms of ratings, especially among the major sports televised in America. This season, the league has not seen the same success as usual. Ratings have been down and the executives, owners, and commissioner, Roger Goodell, seem to be caught like deer in headlights.

The problem with the drop in viewership was brought to the public’s attention a little over a month ago. On Oct. 7, an internal memo that was sent among league executives was leaked online, showing the league was at least acknowledging the drop in ratings. Two main executives, Brian Rolapp and Howard Katz, said that nobody should be worried about the ratings drop and that it should be short term. Rolapp and Katz explained, “While our partners, like us, would have liked to see higher ratings, they remain confident in the NFL and unconcerned about a long-term issue.”  That seemed to be the feeling among most of the high executives in early October. They figured they would wait it out and the fans would be back.

The NFL had good reason to sit and wait. The league detailed a few reasons that ratings could be down. The reasons given were all external. They explained that the election was definitely a factor, as well as the Major League Baseball playoffs. At the time, both of these events were gaining a lot of national coverage and it seemed the NFL was the odd one out, as it was early in the season.

Week Nine of the NFL season was the first to not be paired up with the historic World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians, which drew incredible ratings, in turn taking some viewers from the NFL primetime games of Sunday night and Monday night. NFL executives were rumored to be banking on the primetime games slotted for week nine to gain a true sense of whether the ratings were down or not. The ratings were down once again from last season in both games.

So what’s the problem? Once again, the NFL claiming an external force is causing the ratings to be down: the election. The election, like the World Series, was historic, and had historic ratings, especially in primetime slots. Now, with it over, what should the NFL expect?

An issue that the NFL has had during this entire ratings problem has been the inability to look inward. The league continues to blame external forces as the cause of their downfall, but should they? With a plethora of problems surrounding the league right now––that nobody seems to want to address––they must eventually accept some blame.

Talking about the problems within the NFL is not easy, as there are so many of them. There are two main theories of why fans have decided to tune-out this season. The first being that the NFL has lost the trust of the fans. With Roger Goodell gaining more hatred among both players and fans, this idea is very real. Goodell and, subsequently, the league have been stricter on celebration penalties and uniform infractions, rather than focusing on preventing and punishing the league’s widespread domestic abuse problem. Goodell has lost the faith of players and fans with every decision he makes. The other theory that puts the NFL at fault is that there is too much football. Sometimes quantity does not equal quality. This is certainly the case for the NFL. With fans being able to access more games than ever before, the days where a fan would only be able to watch whoever happened to be on national television are over.

While nobody has the answer just yet as to why the NFL has been down this year, there are many reasons to be concerned.