The NFL is popular in the United States. You don’t need to look at pie charts to realize that much today. As such, no one ever really bats an eyelid when NFL football dominates the TV world. Even those TV fans that do not care about NFL lines understand the dominant nature of football.
There is a reason fall TV shows dread Sunday night. Competing with the NFL is no easy feat and few shows have what it takes to produce a product capable of eating into the NFL’s audience.
However, because the NFL is so big, its cracks are that much easier to spot, and the NFL’s seemingly impenetrable armor has definitely begun cracking. The Thursday night NFL opener saw the fans treated to a rematch between super bowl finalists the Broncos and the Panthers.
The match drew 25.2 million viewers. This was the fourth consecutive year the NFL surpassed the 25 million viewer mark on the opening day. These are the sorts of numbers shows like The Walking Dead dream about.
Yet, it is worth noting that there was an 8 percent drop in ratings when you compare these figures to the previous year. It is also a 6 percent drop when compared to the ratings from 2014.
The numbers probably surprised many NFL officials, especially considering that this match was far more exciting that the Broncos/Panthers match at the Super Bowl. It is difficult to determine what might have caused the drop.
Maybe Peyton Manning’s departure alienated some casual fans of the sport. CBS’ 10.2 overnight rating for its NFL offerings on Sunday afternoon was also less than impressive, CBS noting a 13 percent drop from Fox’s 2015 numbers and a 9 percent drop from CBS’ 2014 numbers.
The Sunday Night Football Match between the Cardinals and the Patriots was just as confusing, a healthy mix of good news and bad news. The Patriots defeated the Cardinals in a match that only drew 20.65 million viewers. Of course, for cable, this was an epic win.
However, there was a notable decline (18 percent) in the 18-49 demographic, at least when compared to the figures from last year’s opener. This is the so-called advertiser-friendly demographic. It also fell below the 2014 September Opener by roughly 16 percent.
The NFL has reason to worry, especially when you consider the fact that this was SNF’s lowest rated offering since 2009. Maybe the notable absence of certain stars is biasing viewers.
Maybe more people cared about Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady’s absences in the Patriots lineup that was initially assumed. Or maybe the NFL is simply losing its drawing power, probably because the shine of its stars is fading.
Football is still the most-watched sport in the United States. However, the bad press the NFL has been attracting lately hasn’t helped matters, and neither have the issues of domestic violence plaguing the game. Colin Kaepernick’s decision to protest the national anthem is another headache that might be influencing viewers, and that isn’t even taking into account all the controversy surrounding player safety.
This could be a small blip on the radar, a bad year; or it could be a growing trend, one that the NFL needs to worry about.