“Week 8” of the NFL season is in the books, and one thing we have learned is that people aren’t watching.
According to Sports Illustrated, primetime NFL games have had double-digit ratings decreases this season, with “Monday Night Football” ratings down 24 percent from this time last season. “Thursday Night Football” ratings are down 18 percent and “Sunday Night Football” is down 19 percent.
A Seton Hall Sports Poll, conducted from Oct. 24-26, collected data stating that 56 percent of those surveyed have tuned out of NFL broadcasts because of the athletes not standing during the National Anthem. While this has become a polarizing topic over the first two months of the season, it isn’t the major reason why fans are not tuning in.
Frankly, the games this year have not been very competitive. Out of 26 primetime games this season, just eight have been decided by one possession, while one game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals ended in a dull 6-6 tie. It’s easy to conclude that fans will change the channel from an uncompetitive game. That’s what has been happening this season.
However, many fans haven’t been tuning in to begin with. This can be attributed to outside factors, such as the ongoing coverage of the presidential election and the MLB playoffs.The NFL can’t control these things, but it can control the matchups.
I don’t know about you, but I won’t be planning my Thursday night around a Titans-Jaguars game. Now, I know not every primetime game is going to feature a must-see game, but this year feels like there are more matchups that just don’t generate interest. Maybe that is a result of no team, aside from the New England Patriots, really being able to assert its dominance within the spectrum of the league. Not a whole lot of parity exists in the NFL right now, and the ratings are suffering as a result.
I’ll give praise to “Sunday Night Football.” Out of the three primetime slots during each week, they normally feature the best matchup. However, when it comes to “Monday Night Football,” I’d rather watch paint dry.
The Monday Night Football matchups this season and in recent seasons have been consistently unappealing. ESPN hypes it up for what it used to be, which was the marquee matchup each week. Nowadays, it is mostly just an afterthought.
This season, there have been nine “Monday Night Football” games. Out of those nine, only two have been decided by less than 13 points. To make things worse, according to Forbes, one of those games – a “Week 5” matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers – had the worst ratings for a Week 5 matchup since ESPN got the rights to “Monday Night Football” in 2006.
According to CNN Money, a “Week 3” matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints had the lowest viewership for ESPN in the past 25 years. This came as a result of the game going up against the first Presidential debate. While there wasn’t much the network could do, it still doesn’t bode well that their two most competitive games – as the Falcons-Saints matchup was the second closest game in terms of score so far this season – each set record lows in terms of ratings.
“Thursday Night Football” tries to bring in viewers by focusing primarily on divisional matchups. At times, however, the divisional matchups they feature still aren’t appealing. For example, the Cardinals have been underwhelming so far, but everyone knows they can still bully around a weak San Francisco 49ers team, making that matchup uninteresting.
It’s hard for the NFL, especially this season, to consistently show the best team in primetime week after week. Until the product on the field improves, though, those ratings won’t be getting better.
Matt Ambrose is a journalism major from Exeter, N.H. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mambrose97.