The start of a new football season sees the National Football League still losing viewers, but gaining excuses. Ratings for Week 1 in the NFL saw declines nearly across-the board from last year, including a 13 percent drop for the opening night game, and a 17 percent decline for the Sunday afternoon games. The numbers continue a downward ratings trend for the NFL that started last season. League and network executives largely blamed that decline on the presidential election, while many of the same folks are already blaming the Week 1 numbers on all of the Hurricane Irma coverage.
While everyone agrees that NFL ratings are on the decline, there is no consensus on what is behind the trend. Former NFL player Sean Jones, co-host of The Bottom Line on Sportstalk 790, tells KTRH he believes the drop in ratings has to do with all of the different entertainment options available to people now, from smartphones and tablets to on-demand TV platforms. "I don't think the game is any less popular, I just think people are distracted and doing other things, irrespective of natural disasters," says Jones.
Jones also blames the NFL for failing to properly market itself, by focusing too much on a high-end, luxury suite, wine-and-cheese crowd. "The game itself has been structured to cater to an advertising audience that really doesn't look like the fans in the stands, it really doesn't, and so I think they have to change that," he says. "The fans who are watching the game, playing fantasy, talking about the games in bars and local barber shops---they have to do a better job of reaching out to those people."
Despite the ratings decline over the last year, the NFL is still by far the most popular sports league in America, and Jones doesn't see that changing anytime soon. "The NFL---say what you want to say about ratings---it's an engaging sport, and people still love the game," he says.