NFL ratings took a hit last year, and no one seems to know why. There are all sorts of possibilities, from the election to Colin Kaepernick’s activism, but no one knows for sure.
“That’s a tough one. I think a lot of the theories were nonsense, even some of my own,” Paulsen, the creator of SportsMediaWatch.com, said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “I tended to think it was the lack of quality of the games, but as I think about it, they might have just had a bad year. Sometimes you have to deal with tough competition. I think there was a lot of unusual stuff that went on last fall that results in maybe people paying less attention to the NFL. But these were really rough numbers in terms of historically; they weren’t actually down that much.”
FOX’s numbers, for example, were down, but not alarmingly so.
“Their numbers for the full season were down nine percent in ratings and six percent in viewership,” Paulsen said. “That’s not huge, but that was the lowest-rated season on FOX since 2008 and the least-watched since 2009. So the numbers themselves, it wasn’t 20 percent of your audience is gone. Most of the people who were watching to begin with were still there. It just happens to be that those declines are steeper than what the NFL usually experiences. NFL ratings are usually stable enough that you don’t have a six-percent decline in a a year. Usually it’s maybe one, two, three percent.”
Monday Night Football wasn’t immune to the dip, either.
“Monday Night Football did horribly last year,” Paulsen said. “They’re bringing back Hank Williams next year, which is a real desperation move. That’s not going to do anything to lift those numbers, but that was the lowest-rated season of Monday Night Football ever – by far. But then again, it was still only down 16 percent in ratings and 12 percent in viewership. So we’re not talking about 30, 40, 50 percent of your audience. It just so happens that you’re dealing with a league that’s usually stable, and last year, for whatever reason, the numbers just kind of fell off. I would imagine they’ll rebound this year.”