Plagued with its athletes protesting the American flag, the NFL is being boycotted by some fans and tuned out by others.
Prime-time games have taken the biggest hit. So what is the league doing about it?
League executives are proposing cancelling up to 10 “Thursday Night Football” games per season, weakly blaming “over-saturation” for failing TV ratings.
In fact, TNF broadcasts are improving, with Tony Romo’s color commentary winning widespread acclaim. But the protests and resulting fan backlash are making the series untenable.
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The idea to trim Thursday Night Football from 18 games a season to only eight was first reported by Sports Business Journal and was part of a plan to reverse the ratings crash that also includes pulling games played in the U.K. back to 1 PM eastern time (6PM London time).
Mike Mulvihill, a Fox Sports vice president, told SBJ that the problem isn’t that there is too much NFL on TV, but that there is too much football all the way around — including college.
“The rise in football availability is pretty dramatic,” Mulvihill said. “This is what drives fragmentation in every area of television. … You can argue whether there’s greater or lesser interest in the game of football than there was ten years ago. But clearly, whatever that interest is, it’s being spread out over quite a few more windows than it was ten years ago.”
For his part, Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Broadcasting and Sports, worried that there is football fatigue by every Sunday of the week and noted that the biggest ratings fall is among viewers aged 18 to 34 years.
“They more and more are getting satisfied by the alternatives of highlights and scores that are available during the game,” Lazarus said. “That continues to train young viewers to follow our sports, not watch our sports. That is concerning for all sports television.”
Ratings are still down despite the small rise seen in Week 7. NBC Sports is off 21 percent from 2015, CBS Sports is down 14 percent compared to 2015, and ESPN’s Monday Night Football has sunk 17 percent over 2015.
Next week, the NFL will blame Bernie Sanders. It works for Hillary!