New Jersey Generals owner Donald Trump couldn’t destroy the NFL in court 30 years ago when he tried to force a merger but won a judgment of only $1 — trebled to $3 under antitrust law. Now Trump, the train wreck of a candidate, has replaced the NFL as must-see TV.
The league’s television ratings are down by 11% overall through the first four weeks, with the prime-time games on Sunday, Monday and Thursday nights taking the biggest beating. The presidential election season is likely the primary reason. It’s hard to stop watching Trump for fear of missing the next incredulous thing that comes out of his mouth.
Who knows? He might attempt to pick up the key USFL demographic by announcing plans to name Herschel Walker as Secretary of State.
The league is concerned enough about the struggling ratings that its two top executives in charge of dealing with the networks, Brian Rolapp and Howard Katz, sent a memo Friday to the league’s media committee, obtained by the Daily News, putting its spin on the alarming numbers.
What’s going on? A few theories:
Lack of star power: Peyton Manning retired, Tom Brady was suspended the first four weeks and Tony Romo, hurt in the preseason, will be out another month. Although Manning is on TV more than ever with his endless commercials, he was always a big ratings draw when he was playing. No player is more polarizing than Brady, which draws viewers, but Roger Goodell wouldn’t dispose of Brady’s suspension or even reduce it after the courts confirmed his commissioner powers in April. The Cowboys always get big numbers, but Romo is still a big ratings draw, if nothing else but to see how much time is left before he throws the game-losing INT in the fourth quarter. If Manning was still playing, then the undefeated defending Super Bowl champion Broncos would be a huge attraction. But it’s not so with Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch. Funny that Goodell needs Brady now more than ever. He returns Sunday in Cleveland.
Trumped by Donald: The outrageousness of The Donald has taken eyeballs away from the NFL. Trump’s first debate with Hillary Clinton two weeks ago pulled in 84 million viewers and certainly contributed to the Falcons-Saints game producing the lowest ratings in the history of Monday Night Football. The second debate at 9 p.m. Sunday will impact the ratings for the Giants at Packers game, which starts at 8:30. According to the NFL memo, ratings for Fox News Channel, CNN and MSNBC are up 35% in the run for the White House and clearly that takes viewers away from games. The 2000 Bush vs. Gore election also produced a decline in NFL ratings, but not nearly to this extent.
Kapped Out: Fans turn to the NFL for as many as nine hours every Sunday, or even 12 hours when the day starts with a 9:30 a.m. game in London. They want to escape their issues and problems, root for their team, watch as much as they can handle and relax. But Colin Kaepernick politicized the game through the first month with his protest of social injustice. The biggest story is who is sitting or kneeling for the national anthem, who is raising their fist, who is locking arms as a sign of unity — not who is starting at quarterback. Just my opinion: I think average fan cares about the racial injustice issues that Kaepernick has focused on, I just don’t think he or she wants it intruding on football. Rasmussen Reports took a poll of 1,000 adults and 32% said they are less likely to watch games because of the protests.
“We see no evidence that concern over player protests during the national anthem is having any material impact on our ratings,” Rolapp and Katz wrote. “In fact, our own data shows that perception of the NFL and its players is actually up in 2016.”
Can You Spell CTE? The league’s biggest problem is the health of its players. It is trying to prevent damaging helmet-to-helmet hits and then protect the players from themselves with the concussion protocol. The long-term impact is how many parents are prohibiting their kids from playing football or even watching it? CTE, the brain disease linked to concussions, is enough to scare potential football players to baseball and basketball.
Oversaturation: When can America get too much of a good thing? The NFL is putting it to the test. In the last 45 years, the NFL has gone from Sunday only to Sunday afternoon and Monday nights in 1970, then added Sunday night in 2006 and Thursday night in 2014. Just to make sure fans were not left hungry for dessert on Thanksgiving, the league added to the early afternoon game in Detroit and the late afternoon game in Dallas by rotating cities beginning in 2006 for a third Thanksgiving game, this one played in prime time. Of course, Jets fans lost their holiday dinner in 2012 with the Butt Fumble.
Remember what Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, a pretty astute businessman, said after the NFL added the Thursday night package for the 2014 season: “I think the NFL is 10 years away from an implosion. I’m just telling you, pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. And they’re getting hoggy. Just watch. Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. When you try to take it too far, people turn the other way. I’m just telling you, when you’ve got a good thing and you get greedy, it always, always, always, always, always turns on you. That’s rule number one of business.”
The league’s spin: 63 of the top 100 shows in 2015 were NFL games. This, however, is 2016. “The NFL continues to be far and away the most powerful programming on television, and the best place for brands and advertisers,” the memo said.
The Donald is much tougher competition on television than he was in the courtroom.
CLEVELAND ON THE ROCKS
Pity the poor Browns. They face a motivated Brady in Cleveland in his first game following his four-game suspension. Now while Brady seemed to enjoy himself in Ann Arbor and Italy during his one-month “vacation,” the Browns went 0-4 on their way to perhaps the second 0-16 season in NFL history. When Brady looks out over the defense Sunday, all he’s going to see is 11 Roger Goodells and he’s going to want to run up the score. Remember, after Brady’s suspension was lifted one week before last year’s season opener, the Patriots won their first 10 games. Brady’s numbers: 25 TDs and 4 INTs. He finished with 36 TDs and 7 INTs, one of his best seasons. Brady takes the baton from Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett at 3-1 and now gets to finish the final 75% of the race with a one-game lead on the Bills and two games on the Jets and Dolphins. That’s like handing Usain Bolt the baton with a 10-meter head start on the anchor leg for the 4×100 meters.
Odell Beckham Jr., has dangerously entered T.O. territory with his antics. But here’s the difference: OBJ is a good kid. T.O. was a knucklehead with the 49ers, Eagles and Cowboys until people stopped caring about him with the Bills and Bengals. Beckham was targeted just eight times in the first quarter of the first four games. He’s so high strung on the field and so competitive, the best way to keep him calm is to get him the ball early and let him make some plays. He’s just 23 and had success so quickly in the biggest market in the country that it takes a lot of maturity to handle it. Here’s my suggestion: It’s nice that he’s friends with LeBron James, but James has played in Cleveland and Miami, neither high-pressure markets. Ben McAdoo ought to find a way for Beckham to sit down with Derek Jeter or David Wright (he’s a big-time Giants fan) and have them explain how they handled success at a young age in New York. Eli Manning is a good role model for Beckham, but sometimes reaching outside the locker room can be helpful.
It’s hard to draw conclusions from comparative scores, which is good for the Jets. They are playing the last part of the three-week round robin that includes the Chiefs and Steelers on Sunday in Pittsburgh. Two weeks ago, they lost, 24-3, in Kansas City, always to be remembered as Ryan Sixpatrick Day. Last week the Chiefs lost, 43-14, in Pittsburgh. Does that mean the Jets will lose 67-16 to the Steelers? Probably not, but may not be pretty… After the four-month contract drama, can you imagine if Fitzpatrick is awful against the Steelers and Todd Bowles has to change to Geno Smith? It shows how little faith Bowles has in Smith that he didn’t budge off the sidelines as Fitz was throwing nine INTs the last two weeks. … When the schedule first came out, 1-5 looked like a real possibility for the Jets. Now with games at Pittsburgh and Arizona, it looks realistic.
IN NO RUSH
Where is the Giants’ pass rush? Olivier Vernon signed a five-year $85 million free-agent contract and he has one sack in four games. JPP, who is making $10 million, also has one sack. The Giants clearly are not getting their money’s worth. Vernon has never been an elite pass rusher. He had just 29 sacks in his four seasons in Miami and only hit double digits in his second year. JPP reached double digits only in 2014 when he was playing for a new contract. If Vernon and JPP can’t get near Aaron Rodgers on Sunday night, he’s going to embarrass them. … Atlanta’s Matt Ryan is putting up video game numbers with 1,473 yards, 11 TDs, 2 INTs and a 126.3 rating in the Falcons’ 3-1 start. Has he finally become an elite QB? The answer will be provided late Sunday when the Falcons play in Denver.
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News