Week 1 was a “tough start for the NFL,” say researchers from UBS.
Yahoo! Finance reports every game slot for the National Football League’s opening weekend suffered a ratings drop compared to 2016, except for Sunday Night Football, a matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants.
Thursday Night’s season opener, between the Patriots and Chiefs, rated a 14.6, which is 11.5% down from 2016, and 17.5% down from 2015. This marks four years in a row that the season opener has seen a ratings decline vs the year before.
Sunday’s afternoon games did the worst: regional games on CBS fell 17%, regional games on Fox fell 28%, and the Sunday afternoon national game on Fox fell 17%.
Both games of the Monday Night Football Week 1 double-header were also down. The first game, between the Saints and Vikings, rated a 4.2, a 12.5% drop from the first Monday Night game last year; the second game, between the Chargers and Broncos, rated a 3.9, a 7% drop.
Some commentators have suggested that viewers were distracted by Hurricane Irma coverage on major cable networks over the weekend. However, this could be the latest spin explain the falling ratings, much like coverage of the presidential election was blamed on lower viewership in 2016. After all, college football’s comparable primetime slot on ABC this past weekend increased by around 40% more viewers over 2016.
Remember, 44% of fans have said they would stop watching NFL games if the anthem protests continued. The league has also taken controversial positions against religious liberty protections in states like Georgia and Texas over the past two years. It is appearing more and more that fans want the NFL to focus on football, and not politics.