The National Anthem controversy and the poor way that the NFL handled it has officially backfired and has led to a plummet in viewership numbers and ratings.
The 2017 NFL view numbers fell by 10 percent compared to the year before and the ratings released the first weekend of the NFL’s postseason were down by 13 percent from 2016.
Nielsen Data Media Research has released a report outlining the demographics watching less of the NFL games.
There has been a decrease in viewership in all age groups, but young people in the 18-49 age group and millennials are watching much less than before.
On average, 14.9 million are now watching a typical game, which is 1.6 million fewer viewers than last season.
In terms of race, the NFL lost a significant number of African American and Caucasian viewers.
“Black viewers in the demo – people who were going to pose the biggest challenge to the #NFLBlackout push that began over last summer – made up ground as the season progressed, but still posted slight declines,” writes Awful Announcing. “The low point, as was the case in 2016, resides among older white fans. The percentages are smaller than their younger counterparts, but that loss of over 450,000 still stings. Those missing fans make up 95% of the ratings decline of all viewers above 55 years old.”
This translates to 85% of total viewership lost being white NFL fans, especially the older ones.
However, there are a few other factors that could have also attributed to the loss in viewership in 2016. First, Sunday is no longer the prime day for football. Now, there are games Thursday, Monday and Sunday and this sometimes leads to days with only bad or mediocre games. Second, there are lousy quarterbacks currently leading teams, which means more bad football games.
But the numbers revealed in the Nielsen report are the most telling. The protests have deterred white Americans (many of which are military personnel or veterans) from watching the games, giving weight to the argument that the National Anthem controversy was the primary reason for fewer views. Not to mention, the Nielsen report covers the 2016 and 2017 seasons when the anthem protest movement was started and gained the most momentum.
This massive loss in viewership has led CBS, ESPN, Fox and NBC, the networks that play the NFL games, up to $500 million in lost revenue.
“Last year’s slide was partly attributed to a lost audience due to the presidential election. This year, the NFL was challenged with fans upset at players protesting during the national anthem, an action that led to a league faceoff with President Donald Trump,” writes ESPN.
“At least 24 players kneeling this weekend at NFL stadiums that are now having a very hard time filling up,” tweeted Trump. “The American public is fed up with the disrespect the NFL is paying to our Country, our Flag and our National Anthem. Weak and out of control!”
Author’s note: Trump’s statements are true. Viewers are insulted by the disrespect of the NFL players and are making a statement by turning off the games. I have said this before, everyone has the right to protest, but rejecting the National Anthem is disrespectful to others. There are so many other and more productive ways for these players to showcase their views. This movement should have been shut down by the NFL the first time Kaepernick kneeled and they would not have alienated so many of their viewers.
Editor’s note: The NFL made a huge mistake in allowing this to continue. Players have always been free to protest on their own time, but when they hijacked game time and national television time, they insulted the audience and did great harm to the League. The League deserves what is got, which is losses in the 10’s and possible 100’s of millions of dollars.