NFL viewership was down eight percent in the 2016 regular season as compared to the previous year. A survey released by J.D. Power shows that the national anthem protests led by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick were the reasons why viewers were turned off from the NFL. Of those who said they watched less, 26% said the protests caused them to stop watching the NFL.

Another 24% said domestic violence issues or game delays were the reasons they tuned out.

Twenty percent cited too many commercials like the dreaded score-break-kickoff-break sequence something the league is addressing this season.

16% cited the 2016 Presidential election for their lower interest in professional football. Networks and sports leagues have cited heightened interest in politics last year as to why their ratings were down from the previous season.

Five percent said cutting the cord was why they were watching less.

But there’s a caveat with this poll. J.D. Power asked if people were watching more NFL games, just the same, or fewer. This is how they broke down:

Same — 62%
More — 27%
Less — 12%

Before election night in November, NFL viewership was down an alarming 14%, but had stabilized afterwards to just being down one percent.

However, the poll does confirm what some observers had stated about the national anthem protests – that they had turned some viewers off, but apparently not to the degree in which they were thinking.


About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the three Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.

  • In other words, there was no REAL loss of viewership due to anthem protests, those people were just looking for something to complain about, and the protests were a useful controversy.

    • PAI

      Actually there was. Mathematically 3% of people watched less football because of it. That amounts to a couple of million people every week, and maybe a few hundred thousand per national game.

      Of course, the polling is kind of subjective, because someone could say they watched more or less football when all that changed was 1-2 games of total viewership for a season, so the magnitude of the overall change is largely unknown.

      • Exactly, which realistically means it’s just a guess, and that figure is more likely much lower than 3%. Besides, 3% is not enough of a loss to do anything about it. That’s just above the margin of error for just about any type of poll or survey that exists, so it’s a negligible figure.

      • Ted Mark

        Mathematically 3% of people SAY they watched less football because of it. As we all know by now, polls and surveys of people about anything are suspect. I’m inclined to think a lot of people who said they watched less really didn’t but chose the survey as a way to express their displeasure at the protests.

        • Leroy Corso

          I watched far less. Many of my friends watched far less. Two gave up NFL completely.

  • sportsfan365

    People watched less football because the quality of play was poor last year, especially early in the season.

    • Deon Hamner

      Thank you. That’s exactly what was going on. Since the lockout ended in 2011, the quality of play has dropped so much. Guys don’t hit or tackle anymore in camp. They don’t workout as much. All because the player’s union chief bitched and moaned. Well that’s how we get here. Takes guys up until mid october to get in game shape and reps.

  • TriCuriousGeorge

    Not a single person turned off a game because of an anthem protest and anyone who claims that they did is a liar.

    • inku palios

      Honestly, if the game sucks, I turn it off. The only people who are offended by the anthem protests, are the Trump supporters & the conservatives on ESPN & Fox Sports.

      • MrBeepo

        ” conservatives on ESPN” Really? Seriously? Please enlighten us to exactly who you are referring to.

      • TriCuriousGeorge

        Not even those dullards aren’t turning off a game simply because dude took a knee during the anthem.

      • Leroy Corso

        I’m a conservative and I avoided 49ers games because of CK. I also loved to find SF lost when I checked scores. btw, there are no conservatives at ESPN.

  • Respected Citizen

    So, “my team sucks” wasn’t an option?

    • Leroy Corso

      Yeah. I’m a Lions fan. Who the hell watches NFL past November?


    Once again misleading headline, overall more watched than didn’t!