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Volume 24 No. 115
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Wall Street "Taking Notice" Of Continued NFL Ratings Decreases This Season

The NFL's ratings woes "continued in Week 2, and Wall Street is taking notice, given there are fewer excuses for falling viewership than there were a year ago," according to Bond & Szalai of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. NFL games "remain some of the most-watched content on television," but ratings slid 12% in the NFL's opening weekend. Many people were "blaming Hurricane Irma" for the Week 1 slide, but Week 2 was down 15% year-over-year "without dramatic weather." This comes after an 8% ratings drop last season. Guggenheim Securities analyst Michael Morris said that he had been "optimistic heading into the new season." However, he said, "Early results do not support this optimism." Jefferies analyst John Janedis figures league rights holders will generate about $2.5B in NFL ad revenue this season, but a 10% shortfall "could translate" to a $200M cut in earnings. Morris said, "The NFL is an indicator of overall primetime programming ratings performance" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 9/20). CNN.com's Frank Pallotta wrote under the header, "NFL Ratings Are Down Again This Season. Is It Time To Panic Yet?" Magna Senior VP Brian Hughes, whose company monitors audience trends, indicated that there is "not enough of a sample size of games" to make a "true assessment of the league's viewership so far." However, the "ratings slump could also be a sign of disruptive media trends on the horizon" (CNN.com, 9/20). SI.com's Richard Deitsch noted nine of the 13 NFL windows through Week 2 have "posted a decrease this season year over year." One "positive note" for the league is that Monday's Lions-Giants game did "trend up" for ESPN. While CBS has "suffered early," the "most positive NFL ratings story so far" is from NFL Network. It is too early in the season "to make larger judgments ... especially given some of the external factors (e.g. Irma)." Deitsch: "But the NFL is likely a little concerned" (SI.com, 9/20).

BREAKING THE HABIT?
ESPN's Bomani Jones said he feels like he watches football "in a lot of ways now out of habit as much as anything else." He said, "This is what we do on Sundays." However, TV ratings are "falling now in a such a way that Wall Street is like, ‘Wait a minute now -- last year we would have cut you some slack on your ratings falling because there was this all-consuming presidential election. The presidential election is over, so what’s going on here?'” Jones said the league is at a “point now with people not being so interested in the NFL has the money a little bit worried.” ESPN's Pablo Torre said the dominance of the NFL "is still unparalleled in terms of American television,” but there is a question of whether observers have "seen peak NFL." Torre: "Have we seen the greatest share the NFL could ever get? Has that already passed us by? I’m inclined to say yes. That may be the case for all sports quite honestly” ("The Right Time with Bomani Jones," ESPN Radio, 9/20). The Boston Globe's Bob Ryan said, “One of the fallacies of sports and entertainment over the last 50 years … is that everything always has to grow. Everything doesn't always grow. There’s an ebb and a flow, things are cyclical. Once upon a time in America, the three most popular sports were baseball, boxing and horse racing.” The Dallas Morning News' Tim Cowlishaw said the NFL has to expect a “little bit of decline, because everybody has a little bit of decline.” However, the league also has to ask if there is a "problems with our product.” Cowlishaw: “The answer to that is clearly yes” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 9/20).

FUN WITH NUMBERS: ESPN's Torre said the way ratings are measured has "always been arcane and complicated, not just because it’s hard to measure ratings but because it’s beneficial for the Nielsen corporation to make things that others can’t access and dissect themselves.” Torre said if there is going to be “this crisis over ratings and we’re going to hire and fire and move markets based on this, shouldn’t we know a little bit more about the numbers and the data that we’re gathering?” ESPN's Jones: "We do have a lot of trust in Nielsen" ("The Right Time," ESPN Radio, 9/20).