Market Watch — The NFL has been sacked for a loss.
Once considered immune to the audience erosion plaguing the television industry, ratings for the National Football League have tumbled through the first four weeks of the season. …
Combined, ESPN DIS, -0.43% , Fox FOXA, -0.33% , NBC CMCSA, -0.20% and CBS CBS, -1.00% are spending an average of $5 billion a year for football rights through 2021 [and] viewership on those networks is down about 10% from last season, according to Nielsen, with steeper declines for prime-time games on Sunday, Monday and Thursday. The drop has caught advertisers and rights holders off guard and left them scrambling to find a cause.
A cause? The NFL and its beloved corporate and broadcast … say it with me now … partners are scrambling to find a cause of the ratings decline?
Let me see if I can help. Perhaps if I dig hard enough I can put my finger on this mysterious, elusive reason the public is increasing turned off by pro football.
Here’s an idea: Perhaps all that stuff we’ve always been told by marketing types that there’s no such thing as bad publicity is pure horsecrap.
Maybe when you take your league’s best player — a man who’s done everything a very public figure can do to act right, conduct himself with class, say all the right things, respect his opponents and represent his sport with dignity — and you spend a year and a half discrediting him as a cheat and a liar, that’s bad for business.
Perhaps when you spend years lying to your employees about the very real dangers they face to play the game, and hope nobody notices the damaged brains, deaths and suicides, eventually that turns off your paying customers.
It’s quite possible that when you enable sick, depraved women-beaters like Greg Hardy and Terrell Suggs while hiding behind insincere “Never again” public service announcements and spending a month making a fast buck off officially licensed pink merchandise because you care about women, it makes it a little tougher to enjoy your product.
And when you let your league be run by a duplicitous, bloodless, lying bureaucrat who’ll do and say anything to give himself the illusion of integrity except answer tough questions honestly, and instead fill his press conferences with planted questions (“Roger, I’m from the UK. What do you say about how much people in my country love our London games?”), even the American people aren’t so stupid and in love with the football they’ll put up with it forever.
Speaking personally, I can reports the ratings for all NFL games are way down among the demographic known as Jerry Thornton. For non-Patriots games, of course. I look at the NFL the way it has treated the Pats. As two separate leagues. One with 31 teams, the other with one. My interest is in watching the Patriots exact revenge on the clubs in the other league, and my interest in the games among the 31 is negligible. And if all this off-the-field negativity and mismanagement by Roger Goodell is finally hurting the league, that to me is a pure good.