The hits just keep coming for the National Football League (NFL), which saw a second consecutive season of massive viewership declines in 2017.
All told, NFL viewership plunged 9.7 percent during the regular season according to Nielsen. An estimated 14.9 million people tuned in to the typical NFL game during the 2017 regular season – compared to 16.5 million who did so in 2016.
And let’s not forget 2016 saw an 8 percent decline in viewership from the previous year.
The new year isn’t bringing better tidings, either. The first two weekends of the NFL playoffs have seen precipitous drop-offs from last season’s games. Despite having three competitive games among its four divisional round matchups, viewership for the second weekend of the playoffs shed 23.3 million viewers from last year – a 16 percent decline. That’s on top of a 13 percent decline in viewership during the 2018 wild card weekend.
What’s going on? Duh. The NFL has found itself on the wrong side of an ongoing culture war – not to mention a lingering political battle with U.S. president Donald Trump. The drama stems from multiple players (notably former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick) refusing to stand for the national anthem.[timed-content-server show=”2018-Jan-17 00:00:00″ hide=”2018-May-18 00:00:00″]
Are there other factors at play? Sure. And is the NFL still the king of television? Absolutely.
But the protests have clearly soured broad swaths of viewers from watching NFL games, and our guess is ticket sales and merchandising are also feeling the pinch.
To be clear: This news site has consistently supported the right of players to express themselves as they see fit during the national anthem. We’re libertarians, people. We would never object to anyone exercising their First Amendment freedom in a way that doesn’t impose upon the liberty of others. Of course, we similarly support those who decide to boycott the league as a result of these protests – or for any other reason they choose.
That’s the beauty of our free market system … every day, each of us gets to vote with our wallets.
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