Here’s why the NFL better be worried about the sinking ratings

Even the National Football League would not try selling the notion the next installment of Thursday Night Football, Jaguars-Titans, will mark the beginning of a turnaround for the leagues declining TV ratings.

The suits would better serve the unwashed masses by promoting the tilt as a temporary cure for insomnia.

Anyway, all the NFL’s TV packages are taking a ratings hit. The exodus of eyeballs from NFL football has triggered a run on theories as to why the ratings have fallen and can’t get up. Yes, the poor, poor NFL owners, along with Roger Goodell & the league’s TV operatives, are the beneficiaries of all these reasons why the digits are down around an average of 11%.

Don’t pity the suits. The ratings are down but won’t stop the NFL from collecting $5 billion a year in rights fees, for an underperforming product, from its network partners in a deal that runs through the 2022 season. Get it? One way or another, a player will suffer for not getting it done on the field. When it comes to the NFL coming up short on the TV ratings side, there is no immediate price to pay.

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Or is there?

While the list of reasons why NFL TV ratings have dropped this season expands, what short-term impact does the decline really have on the league and its TV partners?

If the slide continues, and if they haven’t already, the networks airing NFL games will have to provide companies advertising their products on the telecasts “make-goods.” A network guarantees a certain number of viewers will tune-in to watch a game. If the guaranteed number is not reached, the network must “make-good” by offering the advertiser free commercial time in other programming.

If the downward ratings trend continues, it will affect what the networks can charge advertisers for NFL spots next season. For example, a 30 second spot on “TNF” costs around $523,000. If the “TNF” ratings continue slipping it’s reasonable to believe the price of a 30-second commercial will drop for the 2017 season. The same rate decrease would hold true for other network’s NFL TV packages if the ratings continue to fall.

Kaepernick’s protest not behind NFL’s ratings decline: commish

There are also immediate perception problems for the NFL to consider. The NFL leaps from crisis to crisis. From DeflateGate to anthem protests to domestic violence, all of which are reported on, discussed and dissected by the media. Now, unusually, the average fan, along with Gasbags from coast-to-coast, have turned the shortfall in NFL viewership into a hot topic. Weekly ratings are discussed as regularly as point spreads.

And all these conversations stimulate discussions on “what’s wrong with the game.” This is not what the NFL wants or needs.

The NFL continues to fumble away ratings thanks to lousy product and other issues.

The NFL continues to fumble away ratings thanks to lousy product and other issues.

(Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

While the NFL’s current TV contract has seven years left before it expires, networks are likely already lobbying for the league to implement flexible scheduling (NBC already has it for “SNF”) across the board.

The “conversation” would go something like this: Network executive: Mr. Goodell, do you know why our Monday night football ratings are down 24%? Because our schedule sucks. We need flexibility at a certain point in the schedule, just like NBC. We are not paying you almost $2 billion per for the shlock you are putting on the field.

ESPN’s Sean McDonough calls out poor officiating and NFL ratings

Think about that line. For it leads to another short-term impact of the ratings situation. There is not a coach, GM or NFL TV analyst who does not complain about restrictions on practice time and hitting, which resulted from the last collective bargaining agreement.

As media and fans continue to push the notion the on-field product is in decline and affecting TV ratings adversely, how soon do GM’s and coaches go to ownership and push back, saying, “you want a better product, you want the ratings to come back, then let us do everything it takes for our team to perform at its highest level. Do what is necessary to get rid of the restrictions.”

Privately, other pro sports leagues, and people associated with them, revel in the NFL’s problems. They love to knock the king of all sports operations. Yet the immediate impact of the NFL’s ratings situation includes a bolder approach, not just the usual tweaking.

Like what Fox’s Alex Rodriguez said Tuesday night during the World Series pregame show before Game 1. “In 2016 we (baseball) own the Fall. Not football,” Rodriguez boasted. See, MLB can point to the NFL’s ratings decline and, for the first time in years, flex its October muscles. Especially when one of the participants in the Fall Classic is the Cubs, a transcendent team and a ratings magnet.

NFL claims ratings drop not related to anthem protests in memo

A-Rod’s point should not be dismissed. The perception is baseball, in Cubs-Indians, has something good to sell at a time when NFL football is perceived to be broken.

That’s not good in an entertainment world where perception is reality.

Tags:
nfl
roger goodell

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