No one is watching TV anymore: Football’s Viewership Problem Part 2

In this the second of a three part look at why the entire sport of football has seen a dramatic decrease in numbers this season, we will look now at traditional media as a whole losing its viewership. I took a long look at this in another post How Sports is Changing the TV Landscape. Today we will add some more research and apply it to football specifically.

Most people call it Cord Cutting, but the traditional use of cable and satellite are losing the battle to instant streaming. The main point of this whole article is this, the NFL may just be catching up to the rest of the television world. For years now, NFL viewership has been the exception. As television, network and cable have seen dramatic decreases in their viewership, the NFL held steady. This could just have been the year that the NFL caught up- or rather- down with the rest of the medium.

2016 saw an 8 percent drop in viewership for the NFL but a 15 percent drop from 2015. The viewership for the 18-34 year old’s is down 38 percent over the past 5 years. These are all numbers that resemble regular viewership trends. NBC had its lowest viewership since 2008 with Sunday Night Football. However, SNF is still the most watched show in television. The NFL still had 37 of the top 50 broadcasts. ESPN’s Monday Night Football was the highest rated cable show still this season, beating out all the scripted favorites. Yet it too had less viewership than last year.

The NFL might have a problem that every other television program has been struggling with for a matter of years now. People do not want to pay for cable. The price of cable packages while also being forced to pay for channels that will never be watched has turned many against the whole system. With streaming options like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime the only thing a person would need cable for is the sports packages. But is that even worth it? To many the answer is no.

The antiquated way that television still tries to record viewership might also be a problem. Looking back to the 2016 election cycle we learned an important lesson. Pollsters were very, very, very wrong. Are the same systems that poll for the presidential elections by used to record television viewership? If that is the case, could viewership just be falling under the radar as it does not fit the traditional systems.

The NFL has been the cash cow for years now in television, could their chicken finally be coming home to roost and that is the reason for the decline in numbers? Television has been struggling, either there is not an accurate way to count the viewership or people are fleeing the expensive cable and satellite packages for cheaper options.  All of this is an important perspective to remember as we continue to discuss what is causing the demise in football viewership.


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