Here’s some surprising news: NFL TV ratings are down. So far down, in fact, that the NFL league offices have taken the unusual step of sending a memo to team owners, trying to reassure them that the NFL brand remains as strong as ever.
The NFL’s memo says that its data indicates that the perception of the NFL and its players is actually up in 2016. But the TV ratings for NFL games during the first four weeks of the season are down 11 percent. Not all of that drop can be attributed to Cleveland Browns fans recognizing that their 0-4 team isn’t going anywhere and deciding their are better ways to spend their Sundays, Monday nights, and Thursday nights. So what gives?
The NFL says it’s a confluence of events and predicts ratings will bounce back. Other people think the presidential election is causing the drop-off, as males — the core audience for NFL games — have become more interested in presidential politics than football. Others say it’s the protests of some players during the National Anthem, the fact that some stars like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have retired or aren’t playing, and the NFL’s decision to move more content to digital platforms.
It seems hard to believe that an awful presidential campaign might have suddenly caused long-time NFL fans to switch off games. I suspect that the real reason is simpler — people are just tired of the barrage of NFL glitz and hype, hype, hype that has seeped into every crack and crevice of the game. People like football because they like the game. The NFL has done so much to change a game into a product that the game itself is getting hard to recognize. I think many people are just tired of it. I know I am.