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NFL viewership down and study suggests it’s over protests

But the league cites other reasons

Millions of people tune in on any Sunday, Thursday or Monday during NFL season to watch a game. In 2014, about 205 million viewers watched part or all of an NFL game.

According to a recent internal memo from the NFL, the numbers have dropped. The memo addressed the league’s concern about declining viewership, stating that as of Week 4, ratings were down by 11 percent.

While the NFL attributes the decline in ratings to the presidential race, a study conducted by Rasmussen Reports shows otherwise. Approximately 1,000 American adults participated in a telephone questionnaire on Oct. 2-3 that revealed nearly one-third (32 percent) are “less likely to watch an NFL game” due to players taking a stand and protesting the national anthem. Thirteen percent want to watch a game because of the protests. Fifty-two percent do not base their viewing choice on the protests at all. But the league executives disagree.

“There is no evidence that concern over player protests during the national anthem is having any material impact on our ratings. In fact, our own data shows that perception of the NFL and its players is actually up in 2016,” the executives wrote in the memo.

So let’s break down some numbers. Over the last 15 years, the memo stated, that NFL viewership overall has increased 27 percent, although total prime-time viewership declined by 36 percent.

At issue: The survey was conducted using a small sample size (as most studies are) of 1,000 people. So those 1,000 are used to measure the thought process of more than 200 million NFL viewers.

According to Rasmussen Reports in a survey four years ago, football was Americans’ favorite sport. The current study reveals that blacks and whites have different opinions. Twenty-eight percent of blacks say they are more likely to tune into an NFL game because of the protests, compared with 8 percent of whites and 16 percent of other minority Americans. It also reveals that 59 percent of black voters view the Black Lives Matter movement favorably, while 31 percent of whites and 49 percent of other minority voters disagree.

Further results directly from the study reveal the following:

  • Blacks strongly believe they are treated unfairly by the police, but most overall voters think crime in inner cities is a bigger problem than police discrimination against minorities.
  • Twenty-nine percent of men say they are less likely to watch an NFL game because of the growing protests, while 18 percent say they’re more likely to watch. Among women, 35 percent say they are less likely to watch, and only 8 percent are more likely to tune in.
  • Those younger than age 40 are more likely to watch NFL games because of the protests than their elders are. But just over half of adults in all age groups say the growing protests have no impact on their viewing decisions.

Kelley Evans is a general editor at The Undefeated. She is a food passionista, helicopter mom and an unapologetic southerner who spends every night with the cast of The Young and the Restless by way of her couch.