The ratings for the NFL, through the first four weeks, are down 11% across all networks. This has created such a panic that the league issued a memo (see bottom of page) to all the teams in response to media inquiries about the decline in ratings. They are essentially pinning all blame on the presidential election, while patting themselves on the back for how great there are. That’s like watching a Kitchen Nightmares episode, when Gordon Ramsey spits out a still frozen piece of lasagna in front of a shocked restaurant owner – who thought his food was fantastic. The NFL needs that same dose of reality.
Here are 5 reasons the NFL is to blame for this seasons’ decline in ratings:
1.It’s Become Too Political: Sports should be, and once was, a great escape from the real world. Turn on the TV, crack open a beer and for three hours not think about the world around you. That unfortunately has changed. The NFL will continue to turn off a large portion of their audience if they keep allowing politics to creep into their broadcasts (are you listening ESPN?).
2.Too Many Dumb Penalties: The league has decided to crack down on excessive end zone celebrations and harmless taunting. Why? Were people complaining? When fans go to the game or watch on TV they want to be entertained. So give them what they want.
3.Too Reliant on Big Stars: With Peyton Manning watching from home (on DirecTV of course) and Tom Brady sitting out a 4-game suspension (for something he did in 2014!), the NFL is out their top two stars. Then throw in injuries to Tony Romo and Adrian Peterson and the NFL is in a drought of marquee names. Go back to promoting teams or cities (remember the Cowboys were “America’s Team” or everyone rallying around The Saints after Katrina?), because they are generally more stable than an individual. Unless you live in St. Louis.
4.Too Many Days: The NFL was once happy “owning” only one day of the week. Now they want four. Since then, they’ve lost that Sunday morning mystique. I’m not saying they should go back to just one day, but please don’t expand further into the week.
And finally and most importantly…
5.Fix the Product Itself: In Jan 2010, The Wall Street Journal wrote an article titled “11 Minutes of Action,” where they determined that the average amount of time the ball is in play on the field during an NFL game is about 11 minutes. Think about that. When commercials, stoppages of play, video of players huddling or standing on the sidelines are taken out, you are essentially left with a quick oil change. So stop it and give us more football. We want more tv angles that we can choose from, more audio feeds to listen in on the huddle or the sidelines and for God’s sake please give us fewer commerical breaks.
Whether you’re serving homemade pasta dishes or “America’s Game” you must think of the customer first. The NFL needs to reevaluate their offering and stop taking their fans for granted. This is 2016. Everyone has smartphones, SVOD channels, Pokemon Go and soon virtual reality. Watching football is not the only game in town, so to speak. They need to understand and appreciate how precious our time is and that we have so many other options competing for our attention. Until then, we will stick to watching highlight clips on our teams’ social media pages. Oops. I guess we won’t be doing that either.