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The NFL's ratings crisis

Discussion in 'Sports and News' started by LongTimeListener, Oct 17, 2016.

  1. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    The Washington Post wrote about it at the end of last week, noting that prime-time ratings for the first five weeks are down 15 percent from the full-season numbers of last year. I don't love that comparison, because I'm pretty sure ratings increase as the season goes on and it's a bit of apples and oranges, but there's clearly something big going on.

    NFL ratings plunge could spell doom for traditional TV

    Lots of explanations ranging from the presidential debates to non-competitive matchups. But those concerns seem a little overblown and insufficient to explain such a big drop. And then Sunday night, with marketable stars and an overtime game ... Sunday Night Football hit a five-year low.

    ‘Sunday Night Football’ Ratings Fall To 5-Year Low In OT Game

    I think we've finally reached oversaturation. The Thursday games in particular are horrible, and I'm really wondering if that is coloring people's perceptions throughout the week.

    And I'm wondering if this could finally kill Thursday night football. If that happens, all the pain will have been worth it.
  2. HanSenSE

    HanSenSE Well-Known Member

    Definitely oversaturation, more than bad matchups, the election and, I've seen in some articles, Kaepernick backlash. All the concussion studies have to be a factor as well.

    Thursdays were one of those things Goodell just threw out there to see if it would stick, like expanding the regular season to 18 games and playing in London. If the networks wouldn't scream, I'd make this the last year.
  3. UPChip

    UPChip Well-Known Member

    I think the Kaepernick thing is vastly overblown, mostly because I doubt the quarterback of the 25th-best team in the league can dull the American public's thirst for PG-rated violence.

    That said, I think the product is just bad. From an on-the-field standpoint, the game has become infinitely complicated. There are a handful of physical freaks out there, but I think a lot fewer games are decided on physical ability than are decided on superior tactics, which can become byzantine, or just your increasingly young players making fewer mistakes than their increasingly young players (thanks rookie salary structure), which makes it too random. If you're one of the 12-15 teams that doesn't have a competent quarterback (not to mention the teams whose competent quarterback is injured), your games are almost unwatchable by default. The speed is so high that it's impossible to make any borderline call with any sense of certainty, which leads to flow-killing replay reviews. The rulebook has become infinitely complicated to match. No one knows what a catch is, where you can legally hit a quarterback and what you can or cannot do after a touchdown (except for that third pump -- everyone knows you can't go there). Because the players are bigger, stronger and faster than ever, they're also more prone to injuring each other, which leads to teams fielding players that are hopelessly inferior.

    As far as the fan experience, I think the NFL's heavy-handedness on player expression has hurt the product. I mean, who honestly cares what color a guy's cleats are other than Roger Goodell's tight ass. I think the league is being fairly criticized for its hypocrisy on matters such as domestic violence, Goodell's vendetta-based application of player discipline, its various "causes," and its desire for profit maximization (like my favorite abomination, Color Rush): foreign games, Thursday games, mandatory preseason games in ticket packages, stadium deal extortion, prices of tickets, parking, food and merchandise and so on and so on. And that's not counting the total media saturation for the game in North America. I think we've long since passed the point in which it is not possible to find a minute of the day in this country at any point in the year in which the NFL is not being discussed on some form of media.

    And the in-stadium experience. After paying the NFL mark-up on EVERYTHING, you get to spend 4 hours in a drunken mob with commercial breaks. The amount of people who have turned gameday into some sort of drunken bacchanal is really frightening. It's more fun sometimes to watch the Press-Gazette's #scannersquawk hashtag than watch actual Packers games at Lambeau Field. A friend who went to a night game earlier this season was groped and harrassed by fans of her own team and later was very unhappy with that team (not the Packers') response, probably because there was so much other crap going on around the stadium at a given time that it was impossible to deal with it all promptly.

    Solutions? Well, I think the fixes here are out of the same book that would be necessary to fix postseason baseball, but since a majority of those fixes require decreasing the networks' or the league's profit margin, you'll never see those happen. I think loosening the bonds on player "expression" would be a start to make for a more entertaining game but, like the NBA, piss off the (old, white, moneyed) audience that counts for the league and advertisers.
  4. exmediahack

    exmediahack Well-Known Member

    UPChip makes all my points for me. Bravo.

    I care less about the NFL regular season in 2016 than I ever have. Packers lost at home... I wasn't outraged. Chiefs won at Oakland... I wasn't elated.

    MNF game is an example. Once the Jets were down 7-0, I knew the end result. Scrolled through. 28-3. Yup.

    Last Saturday was not crazy finish Saturday like we've seen most of the year in college football. Still tons more exciting (I had 29 games to sort thru -- I actually write them out before the early kickoffs so I can see what channels to flip to).

    Compare that with my Sunday selection of Jags-Bears, Rams-Lions, Cowboys-Packers and capped off with Colts-Texans.

    First time I didn't record any early kickoffs in years. Didn't miss it.

    It's not concussions. It's not Kaepernick. It's a weak product in an era where the time of your consumers is now paramount.
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2016
    Liut likes this.
  5. Elliotte Friedman

    Elliotte Friedman Moderator Staff Member

    I would only disagree in the sense that I believe concussion coverage to be a factor.

    In Canada, we have scaled back the amount of national NHL games available on our hockey package. We learned oversaturation is a legit problem, even in a puck-crazed country.
    Liut and FileNotFound like this.
  6. outofplace

    outofplace Well-Known Member

    I don't buy the argument regarding concussions. What is the thinking?

    "I'd watch this game, but I'm afraid I might see someone suffer brain damage and I just can't handle that."

    "I'd watch this game, but I am too outraged by the NFL's refusal to protect its players from brain damage."

    I don't buy either one of those. Maybe I'm not looking at it from the right perspective, but I don't think the average sports fan cares that much about the concussion issue, not enough to change his or her viewing habits.

    I do think the product on the field is an issue. The issue of too many injuries taking too many stars off the field is certainly part of an overall decline in the level of play. I've heard an argument that less practice time in pads is weakening the quality of line play, but it could also be the switch to more and more spread offenses at the lower levels.

    Thursday night games are also a problem. It is too much. I'm a football junkie, but I rarely watch the Thursday games unless the Steelers are playing. Football makes its living on games having a national appeal. This isn't baseball, where it is fine if the only people watching are the regional fans.
  7. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    I don't think people are turned off by the concussions themselves, necessarily, but by the rules changes they have triggered. They may even understand it, but it gets pretty tedious to watch.

    I think over saturation is the biggest problem. I used to argue with my brother that it was a mistake to let NASCAR's stars race on Saturday night in the JV race. That's kind of where we're at here. Nothing special about a gene anymore.
    heyabbott likes this.
  8. Michael_ Gee

    Michael_ Gee Well-Known Member

    I agree with every point made here to an extent. But OOP, I have to disagree with you based on personal experience. When I was a teenager in the '60s, my favorite sport, hands down, was auto racing. But I gradually and then suddenly lost that love because at that time there were too many funerals to make it fun. My son told me last winter that the constant injury toll made it harder for him to get into the NFL.
    My own view: The original marketing genius of the NFL was to get you to watch games between teams that had no connection to your home team. When you expand to four days a week of games, and allow fans to see parts of all the games on RedZone, the product gets diluted. I didn't watch Jets-Colts because who cares about either team who isn't a home town fan?
    I'm sure it's escaped the NFL's notice, but are there many posters here who don't agree that 2016 postseason baseball, and postseason baseball is the slowest sport this side of golf, has been vastly superior entertainment to the 2016 regular season NFL?
  9. Elliotte Friedman

    Elliotte Friedman Moderator Staff Member

    The thinking is this: parents are keeping their kids out of football, and that means entire families lose interest. It affects your ratings. Happening in hockey, too.
  10. Baron Scicluna

    Baron Scicluna Well-Known Member

    One other problem I see is the constant commercial interruptions. There seems like there's more of them nowadays and it kills the play flow.

    I had flipped between the Colts/Texans and the Cubs/Dodgers game. Right before halftime was this sequence:

    2:15: Texans call timeout. Go to commercial
    2:00: Texans run one play, two-minute warning, go to commercial
    Back from commercial, Texans run 1-2 plays, (I flipped away to the MLB during the warning break, so I'm not sure how many) score, go to commercial
    Kickoff (don't recall what happened) go to commercial.

    Four commercial breaks, and only maybe 30-45 seconds went off the clock. It took something like seven or eight minutes in real time to run maybe four plays.

    I would have barely missed anything during that time, and even if something major was going to happen, I was weighing the odds of that happening vs. the odds of something big happening in the playoff game. I kept flipping to the baseball because, playoff stakes aside, it was much more compelling.
    tapintoamerica likes this.
  11. outofplace

    outofplace Well-Known Member

    I can buy that to a point, but I don't think parents are keeping their kids from watching football, just playing it. It raises an interesting question. How much does playing a sport as a child influence what sport you follow later. For example, basketball was the sport I played most, but I pay far closer attention to football and baseball as a fan.
  12. exmediahack

    exmediahack Well-Known Member

    If the product was consistently better, I think people would watch. We want to be entertained.

    There's a split in presenting this argument, however. The NFL is very much a binary equation of (have good QB = win / have bad QB = lose).

    But there is also this...

    The rules are such as, over the past decade, if Team A gets up 21-3 in the 2nd quarter, the game isn't over. In 1984... a 21-3 lead in the 2nd quarter meant the game was, essentially, over.

    Now it's not over because of PI calls, prevent defenses and scared coaches. That makes for close scores at the end -- but also no real motivation to watch the first half of games.

    I don't watch NFL games all the way through now. I'll DVR games I am interested in and scroll through the first 3 quarters (30 second skip-style) with the goal to watch the last 10 minutes "live".

    Same for college football. I'll gravitate back to the TV for the end of the early kickoffs -- and ESPECIALLY in the 5:30 to 7 pm when all of the late afternoon games approach the end. THAT is the golden hour of sports viewing now -- the last 90 minutes of the 3:30 ET/2:30 CT kickoffs.

    The difference is - on Saturday - with 29 games on my satellite (I get the usual over the air networks, ESPNs, FS1, Big Ten, SEC, Pac10), I am guaranteed some spectacular finishes (even last weekend when it wasn't quite a crazy as most of 2016 college football). In the NFL, the payoff -- even for a Rams/Lions close game - doesn't matter when the teams are garbage.
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2016
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