Numerous Factors Causing Low NFL Ratings in 2016

By Matt Ambrose,
Sports Business Writer

The NFL. A league whose popularity has only grown as years have gone by. However this season hasn’t been quite the same, with TV ratings down significantly through the first eight weeks of the year.

Fans around the league have several reasons for why they aren’t tuning in each Sunday, and through data collected by the Seton Hall Sports Poll, they were able to pinpoint certain reasons why fans are becoming disgruntled with the league. Instead of asking fans for their reasons as to why they are not watching games, the poll came up with several reasons they figured than fans were not watching this season.

According to the poll, the majority of fans are not tuning in because of certain NFL players not standing during the National Anthem. Of those surveyed, 55.8 percent said that they have not been watching due to these protests. Several players around the league, most notably San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, have begun protesting the National Anthem while it is played prior to each game. Kaepernick has protested by kneeling or sitting during the anthem, while others have done so by raising a fist in the air. “It suggests people are reacting to something they don’t even see, because the national anthem is generally not televised,” said Rick Gentile, director of the Seton Hall Sports Poll.

So far this year, primetime NFL games have taken a major hit in terms of TV ratings. According to Sports Illustrated, Monday Night Football ratings are down 24 percent this season, while Thursday Night and Sunday Night broadcasts are down 18 percent and 19 percent, respectively. The league ratings as a whole have taken a 12 percent dip, according to CNBC.

Another possibility for the lack of viewers this season is the poor quality of the games. However, the Seton Hall Sports Poll said that only 32.6 percent of those asked said that the poor on-field product was the reason for their lack of interest in games this season. This is a fixable problem for the NFL, as many of their primetime matchups have featured poor matchups, such as a Titans-Jaguars Thursday Night Football contest back in week eight.

While the ratings for the league overall are down, they have seen an increase in their number of unique viewers. According to CNBC, the first 43 games of the season reached 166.7 million unique viewers, which is slightly up from the 166.4 million at the same point last year.

The Seton Hall Sports Poll was able to come up with other reasons as to why people aren’t watching, such as the presidential campaign going on as well as the MLB playoffs. The NFL now finds itself in an unfamiliar spot after having hardly any problems with TV ratings in recent years. The NFL is now forced to find answers, and they need to do so quickly.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, November 8th print edition.

Contact Matt at


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