NFL ratings haven't been good so far, although this Giants-Cowboys game did okay.

The NFL’s ratings have been a hot topic of discussion, but it isn’t always apparent just how much a dip may damage broadcasters’ bottom lines. That’s the focus of a Hollywood Reporter piece by Paul Bond and Georg Szalai published Wednesday, though, which features several Wall Street analysts discussing if NFL ratings will stay down and what they might mean for media companies’ bottom lines.

Here’s a look at the most important part, discussing the second week of the season being down 15 per cent year over year (and that’s from 2016, a year where ratings already fell 8 per cent overall from the previous year): 

Guggenheim Securities analyst Michael Morris said he had been optimistic heading into the new season because audiences would appreciate some changes, including fewer commercial breaks and allowing players to creatively celebrate touchdowns. Now, though, he says, “early results do not support this optimism.”

Jefferies analyst John Janedis figures CBS, ESPN, Fox and NBC will generate about $2.5 billion in NFL advertising revenue this season, but a 10 percent shortfall could translate to a $200 million cut in earnings.

Since the NFL season opened Sept. 7, shares of NBC parent Comcast are off 9 percent, ESPN parent Disney has seen its stock drop 3 percent and shares of CBS are down 5 percent. Only shares of 21st Century Fox have risen in that time frame, up 2 percent.

“Continued declines in NFL ratings again this season will likely place further downward pressure on media stocks,” said Morris. He added, in fact, that “the NFL is an indicator of overall primetime programming ratings performance.”

Janedis’ projection of a $200 million cut in earnings across the four NFL broadcasters shows just how much of an impact any NFL ratings downturn can have on bottom lines. And that stock movement likely has something to do with it; of course, Comcast, CBS, Disney and 21st Century Fox all have tons of business ventures apart from the NFL or even sports in general, but a continued NFL downturn (especially after many forecast the league’s ratings would trend back towards its previous numbers this year) will have a significant impact on their revenues.

Morris’ point about the NFL as “an indicator of overall primetime programming ratings performance” is interesting, though. Yes, on some fronts, lower NFL ratings are related; some of the drop is thanks to cord-cutting and cord-shaving, and to people choosing subscription video services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime rather than watching traditional broadcast television. And it’s possible that a NFL downturn may be an indication that other TV shows will struggle too.

However, live broadcast ratings for non-NFL programming have already dropped substantially over the last decade-plus, with DVRs, on-demand programming and other competitors all playing a role there. That’s part of what led to the current wave of giant sports deals; sports programming is still something that’s consumed by a lot of people and mostly consumed live with ads, especially when it comes to things like the NFL, so there’s still value there for advertisers and broadcasters. And that’s an important element to keep in mind. NFL ratings dropping hurts, but if everything else drops as well, there may still be strong demand for advertising on NFL games. The NFL’s still the biggest sports broadcast property out there and the most-watched broadcast property in general, so it’s important to consider its position relative to other TV programming as well as its relationship to its own previous ratings.

The fears of NFL ratings staying low and thus affecting these media corporations’ bottom lines do seem to have a strong basis, though. There are plenty of reasons people are watching less NFL programming, and that trend doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, at least from what we’ve seen through the first couple of weeks. And as Janedis notes, if the numbers stay down, that is likely to hurt broadcasters’ ad revenues and earnings.

And on that front, keep in mind that the upfront NFL ad market was described as the “softest since 2008” in this June piece from Ad Age’s Anthony Crupi, meaning that lots of NFL ad inventory wasn’t sold in upfronts; that meant that broadcasters were betting on decent ratings and high prices, but ad buyers were betting on being able to get good deals later. They might be able to do that now. Add that into the make-goods that broadcasters have to offer if their ratings don’t hit promised levels, and this could be a costly year indeed for NFL broadcasters.

[The Hollywood Reporter]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing.

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  • TL

    Good riddance when the NFL didn’t discipline Colin Kaepernick on day one, it set a political agenda. And you would be surprised how many people got pissed off at the NFL and decided not to watch or buy tickets anymore.

    Sports should be a place where personal beliefs are kept off the field. When it’s game time you have one objective to play and focus all talk about it.

    Keep your personal beliefs off the field and on your social media accounts.

    But when you are playing a game that day, you talk only about the sport.

    • Karl Kolchak

      Actually, I’ve stopped watching because the NFL blackballed Kaepernick, who is a true American hero. Only anti-American scumbags think players should give up their constitutional rights.

      • Joeb Henny

        Karl, you piece of cow dung, he is not a hero but a traitor to our great nation.
        To have a successful country we need the people to be united.
        He is doing the opposite, just riling up the uneducated blacks which results in more unnecessary bloodshed. Kapernick has blood on his hands, a fact.

      • Bustamove

        You don’t have freedom of speech at work.

    • Deon Hamner

      Discipline what? For taking a knee? Get a life pal. When’s the last time you been to a game? There’s people in the beer line during the national anthem and those folks just keep on moving. The ratings are down not because of Colin Kaepernick being blackballed or hurting your feelings for taking a knee. Look at the quality of play. Lack of tackling, phyiscally, hard hits, offensive line play. Plus you thrown in people streaming and cord cutting. That’s your answers. Not some nitwit big afro back up QB.

      • Joeb Henny

        You missed the point, by kneeling he disrespected every person in this country.
        He needs to separate football and politics.

        • Deon Hamner

          He went from sitting to kneeling. And yet he still got critized. And seeing our potus acts you wonder why people are acting like this. I also like how you conveniently left out the part of the fans drinking beer, buying food and other things during the song…

    • Sting Rey

      i dont think kaep’s stance is the cause of the ratings decline. there are just too many options on tv now. my brother and i and die hard football fans. we will text each other during the games. but due to technology, you dont have to watch the games to follow the games.
      last sunday i knew every detail, saw every highlight, tracked every stat and not once did i turn on an nfl game.

    • Joeb Henny

      Absolutely, political crap has to be left off the field.
      So happy that loser Kap is unemployed, he deserve it for disrespecting every American.

  • Chris

    Big college football games are more interesting than NFL games because of the atmosphere, the matchups, etc. How many bucket list venues are there in the NFL? Lambeau and that’s probably it. The fact that two classic franchises, the Giants and 49ers, are coughing and weezing in antiseptic stadiums says a lot about today’s NFL.

  • souvien

    and the Ginger Dingus get’s another contract extension…really earning all those millions Roger!
    Enjoy all of those empty seats at the Niner’s game tonight!

  • TheAmazingT

    It is a joke to state that NFL ratings are low. People find an occasion to bash the NFL. Part of country including big markets such as Houston have to deal with natural disasters!

  • noonan18

    If people think the NFL viewership is bad now, wait until the league gives in to the 4 SJW’s and ESPN that asked the league to implement a “social awareness” month in November (same month as veterans day, no less). It could get alot worse for them.

  • BobLee Says

    There are more reasons for decreased interest in The NFL than there are for why Hillary lost in November. THAT’s a LOT of reasons. It’s not “just” Kaepernick… just thugs… just too many commercials… just cable cutting… just… just… just. It’s all of them combined. Every trend in any society gradually runs its course and individuals move on to something else. Ask the guy with a warehouse full of buggy whips, telephone booths and floppy disks.

    • Sting Rey

      exactly, nfl was king for a long time. it wasnt going to last forever.

  • Sting Rey

    there are many reasons for the decline. i believe the biggest reason is over exposure. the nfl play games every day except tuesday and wednesday…for now.
    then you have all the broadcast partners who have such a large stake in the nfl. they follow and over report on everything related to the league. for example espn being the biggest culprit acts as if any news coming from the nfl is breaking earth shatertering news. we get 4 hour pre game shows with 12 person panels.

  • GameFederer

    Kaepernick stuff isn’t why the league declined. Goodell has ruined the entertainment value of the league. Cracking down on touchdown celebrations and what not. Goodell just comes off as a smug prick whereas Tagliabue was much more personable and likable. I always laugh at the over exaggerated hugs Goodell gives to draft picks walking up on stage.

  • PAI

    Maybe, just maybe, nothing at all is the reason for it. All good things come to an end, and this is the beginning of that end for the NFL. Now, not the ‘end’, but the decline down the bell curve to a new normal like baseball.

  • Joeb Henny

    Start watching college football and boycott this joke of a league.
    Those dolts who disrespected our great nation should be boycotted.

  • John

    I was going to watch the London game this morning but as soon as I saw all those @#$% taking a knee during the anthem, I turned it off.

  • Robert Herrera

    Just breaking. Fox sports just cancelled all NFL games in 2017. I also am boycotting the NFL which really stands for NATIONAL FELONS LEAGUE. Grown up men acting like sissies. Oh my I’m oppressed. Yeah right.

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