Through Week 6, NFL ratings are down from last season by 6%. Most of the decline is due to lower viewership in the Sunday afternoon windows. One prime example was Pittsburgh-Kansas City on CBS last Sunday, which was 26% off from the same timeslot on Fox in 2016.
Media analyst Alexia Quadrani noted that NFL’s ratings have been down in five of the six weeks, and that viewership is down six percent thus far on top of a 12% drop last year through Week 6.
Quadrani gave some possible reasons as to why the ratings are down:
“Theories, theories, and theories: Chris Simms of NBC Sports Network says the league has made it too easy for young fans to stream condensed versions of games. Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk claims the NFL focused too much on growing the sport outside the U.S. USA Today noted that significant injuries (Aaron Rodgers, J.J. Watt, Odell Beckham, Julian Edelman) are probably not helping ratings. Forbes meanwhile attributes some of the softness in viewership to the National Anthem protests. We note that in Week 6, most NFL broadcasts did not show the anthem, instead moving to commercial breaks.”
The ratings downturn is now concerning Wall Street analysts to the point where they’re lowering their profit forecasts for the networks. Credit Suisse reduced its earning per share forecasts for 21 Century Fox due to Fox’s lower NFL ratings, and it also lowered its CBS third-quarter estimates by five-percent.
The NFL has been battling news about concussions, kneeling during the anthem, and President Donald Trump’s negative tweets about the league. In the second half of last season, ratings did improve, but for now, it appears the NFL and its TV partners have a ratings problem.