The NFL is in decline.
Relative to the other major American sports, the NFL is still the most popular, but it’s rapidly trending down.
Now the latest numbers paint a grim picture for the league.
The NFL’s ratings for a pair of conference championship games with compelling storylines were disappointing to say the least; they were the worst figures in four years.
If you’re the NFL this morning, looking at the ratings from Sunday’s conference championship games, chances are you’re mixing something extra strong into that morning coffee.
A regular season trend of declining ratings which then turned into a postseason trend of declining ratings, has culminated into a championship weekend of, you guessed it, declining ratings.
The early game on CBS, between the Patriots and the Jaguars, drew a 27.3 rating. While that’s only down a tenth of a point from the 27.4 rating that the Packers and Falcons drew in that time-slot last year, it’s also the lowest rated early game in the last five years. Bested only by a woeful 2013 early game between the Falcons and 49ers, which drew a 26.1 rating.
The late game numbers from the Vikings and Eagles, did not improve the situation for the NFL. Vikings-Eagles drew a 24.7 rating, a 2.9 percent drop from the 27.6 rating that the Steelers and Patriots drew last year.
It’s also the second lowest rating for a late game since 2009, surpassed only by the “Deflategate” between the Patriots and Colts in 2015.
Here’s chart provided by Sports TV ratings, which shows the early and late game playoff numbers stretching back to 2006:
NFL Conference Championship overnight ratings 2006-2018:
The NFL has a chance to turn the situation around. The Super Bowl will feature the much-loved/much-hated Patriots, who hail from a major market; against a major market team in Philadelphia, that has at least a somewhat compelling story-line with backup quarterback Nick Foles at the helm.
Still, regardless of how well the Super Bowl does, there’s no mistaking the fact that the NFL has a serious problem on its hands when it comes to viewership.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has aspirations to grow the league to foreign markets, but the evidence suggests that would be a disaster.
Viewership in the annual London game is tepid at best, and New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick pointed out the logistical nightmare of traveling to Mexico City for a regular season game.
On top of that, the league has, at best, plateaued in popularity. At worst, it is falling.
The anti-American anthem protesters alienated a contingent of core fans who don’t appear to be coming back any time soon, especially with the league caving to the demands of disrespectful kneelers.