The National Football League’s culminating event is about to ensue on Sunday when the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles square off in Super Bowl 52, and while most feel the NFL is losing popularity, the league will likely hang onto their massive Super Bowl ratings as a reason the game has never been more popular.
However, is this really the case? Have the reports of CTE, national anthem protests and a constant barrage of issues with the game itself taken their toll on the fan base? If you dig deeper into the TV Ratings you will see a different story.
While some may stop there and suggest just looking at TV ratings isn’t a true test of the popularity of the league, this is where the NFL makes its money. Want to get the NFL to change? Hit them where it hurts — in the wallet.
Roger Goodell is loved by the owners, well most of them, due to the fact he makes them a lot of money. He has grown the NFL into a multi-billion dollar organization. Those billions leak out into the pockets of the 32 majority owners of their respective teams.
But back to the ratings. Check out these numbers from Darren Rovell of ESPN:
NFL television ratings fell 9.7 percent during the 2017 regular season, according to numbers registered by Nielsen.
A typical game was watched by 1.6 million fewer people this season as compared to last season (14.9 million versus 16.5 million).
The drop comes after the NFL had hoped to stem an 8 percent ratings slide from last season by experimenting with the format for television commercials and trying to speed up the game.
The fact remains, despite these numbers, people will watch the Super Bowl. Why? Because that is what people do on Super Bowl Sunday. Some watch for the commercials, some watch for gambling and others watch just for the halftime show. But people watch...they will always watch the Super Bowl.
While the NFL talks about a new generation of football fan not watching cable, or last season’s ratings drop being due to the presidential election, Rovell isn’t buying it.
The NFL isn’t in a vacuum, as the viewership drop is indicative of the general environment as less television is being watched and cable subscriptions have declined. The NBA, however, has seen a 20 percent increase in viewership this season as compared to 2016-17.
The league will hang its hat on prime time numbers and the fact 20 of the 30 highest-rated shows on television in 2017 were football games, but the overall numbers don’t lie. While football is still the most popular North American sport, the true state of the NFL is anything but certain.
Now, if Super Bowl 52 rating numbers are down as well, then there is definitely trouble in paradise. Is the game in trouble? Are the fans actually going to enforce change? Only time will tell.