NFL AM: TV Ratings Are Down For 4th Straight Week


Viewership Down Across The NFL

The National Football League as a television show seemed to be a speeding locomotive that crushed everything in it’s path.

Just two years ago, 49 of the 50 most viewed televison shows in America were NFL broadcasts.  The lone wolf in that mix was the NCAA Championship Game.

Seemingly domestic violence arrests, a CTE scandal, a child abuse case with a high profile player and the way commissioner Roger Goodell mishandled everything along the way had no effect on America’s love and consumption for the game.

It’s appears that times may be changing.

Via SportsBusiness Daily, the overnight rating for Monday night’s Giants-Vikings game of 9.1 was down eight percent from the 9.9 generated in the same spot by Lions-Seahawks a season ago.

Sunday night’s ratings for Chiefs-Steelers were down 26 percent from Saints-Cowboys a year earlier, the early Sunday Colts-Jaguars game was down 24 percent, and the FOX late-afternoon window was down 10 percent.  The FOX 1:00 p.m. ET window also saw a decline, with a 20-percent decline from 2015 to 2016.

In only one window did the league experience a ratings uptick: A two-percent climb in the regional games beginning at 1:00 p.m. ET.

What are the reasons for the decline in viewership?

Fantasy football participation seems to be at an all-time high, which is a good sign for the league, or at least we think so.  More and more people are watching Red Zone Channel which keeps the viewer updated on all of the important plays of every game.  That doesn’t figure into the ratings.

NFL games are streamed online more than ever, which also bites into the standard network numbers.

Those two reasons would give the league hope, as the same amount of people are consuming the product, just in different ways.

What if that isn’t the case?

Has America grown tired of all the off the field mishaps and reactionary over-discipline after all of the under-discipline of the Goodell era?

What does this mean for Goodell himself?

The commissioner has a lot of support from the owners, seemingly the only place he has support these days.  That is because he’s navigating a multi-billion dollar product (usually without any type of GPS guidance).  With the television numbers declining during all four weeks of the 2016 season, the league may not have as big of a loaded firearm (similar to the one Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham brought to the airport) to the negotiating table with the networks.

Without the ridiculous television ratings and growth that the league has experienced, Goodell just looks like a corporate schill who often seems as unprepared for his job as Donald Trump does for a debate.

That has to affect his job security.

If you’re expecting a television ratings bounce-back, don’t look toward Week 5. The Thursday night game features the 1-3 Arizona Cardinals against the also 1-3 San Francisco 49ers, while Monday night pits the 1-3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the 1-3 Carolina Panthers.  Although Sunday night’s game features two of the most popular franchise’s with the New York Giants taking on the Green Bay Packers, it also goes head-to-head with the second presidential debate.

This year could just be a blip and not a trend.  Everything in the economy is a little off due to the craziness of the election.  But with declining attendance figures over the past few years and now declining television numbers it leads one to believe that there could be a saturation of the product.

Jaguars Place Joeckel On IR

Former No. 2 overall pick (2013) Luke Joeckel has had an up and down career with the Jacksonville Jaguars.  The “up” part of it mostly came before he ever played a down as he was overdrafted and then signed to his lucrative rookie contract.

On the field Joeckel has been a pretty significant disappointment.  The Jaguars tried for three years to groom him into being a franchise left tackle, but he hasn’t shown the ability to keep the position.  Finally this offseason the team signed free agent Kelvin Beachum from the Pittsburgh Steelers and despite coming off a torn ACL, he was able to win the job from Joeckel while playing in just one preseason game.

“He’s just a very good technician, very good pass protector,” Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said of Beachum. “Great kid, very intelligent and I think his skill set in terms of athleticism, being able to pass protect the speed rushers on the outside. Also, he has a degree of versatility to him, too.”

Joeckel was moved inside to guard where the results were sketchy at best.  He was thoroughly dominated in his first preseason performance against Geno Atkins, which is no surprise, as Atkins does that to most NFL guards.  He played a little better in the season opener, but struggled overall during the first three weeks.

In Sunday’s 30-27 victory over the Indianapolis Colts, Joeckel suffered what appeared to be a major knee injury and on Tuesday he was placed on injured reserve.

“It’s unfortunate. Your heart and soul goes out to him,” Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley explained. “Here’s a guy, played tackle, went through a competition, made a move that’s what is best for the team. Gave to this team, gave in so many areas. It’s not supposed to happen like this when a guy goes about it that way. That’s the tough part of swallow.”

The good news for the Jaguars is that 26-year old journeyman Patrick Omameh played well in Joeckel’s absence.

“He did a good job,” Bradley said of Omameh. “I give credit to the whole offense, the staff and the players because with the injuries that we had, there was some shuffling taking place. They go in there. Neal Sterling had to play Y at times. We had an extra tackle package in there where Patrick was going to play that extra tight end spot. That had to change. There were a lot of things shuffling. I just thought that guys stepped up. They really didn’t blink and they went in there and tried to be the best they could at that position. Patrick was one of them.”

As good as he looked, it was only for a little more than a half and it came against the Indianapolis Colts, who have the 30th ranked scoring defense and 24th ranked defense in yards allowed in the NFL.

Bradley was asked if it was Omameh’s job going forward.

“We’ll take a look at it now and see where we’re at,” the head coach responded. “That’s a good thing about the bye week: we can have those conversations and see what’s best.

“Patrick is a bigger-body type guy. I think we’ll take a look at it, where we want to go from here with the body types.”

As for Joeckel, the team declined to pick up his fifth-year player option in the offseason and it’s more than likely that he played his last snap in Jacksonville. With so many teams looking desperately for offensive line help, it’s almost a certainty that he will get a shot elsewhere either at his natural tackle position or inside at guard.

About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.