A lot can happen in a few years. Four years ago, the CTE controversy was raging and fiery and Colin Kaepernick was still playing for the San Francisco 49ers.
One could say that, for the National Football League, embroiled in controversy over five years; the chronic traumatic encephalopathy coverup, the revelations of a plague of domestic violence amid football players, and the fervor over nonviolent accompanying the protest actions and subsequent blackballing of Colin Kaepernick have been stripping away viewership in much the same manner a blackhole dies, one atom at a time.
Once and still the monolith of TV viewership as far as American team sports is concerned, the NFL has been shedding viewership constantly. Yet, even the National Football League and its most ardent advertisers are torn as to the reason why. According to a poll published in the Wall Street Journal, adults who say they follow NFL closely decreased by 9 percent.
An even more alarming trend can be found among the men who responded to the study. Of all the participants, which occurred in January, only 51 percent of men aged 18 to 49 still follow the NFL closely. Just four years ago that number was at a robust 75 percent.
You watch the guys playing college ball, and I feel like they are trying a lot harder and you get a better game, said Tim Muzzy, 29, from Upstate New York. I dont hear the talk about [pro] football as much as I used to.
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Micah Roberts, a Republican who helped conduct the poll along with Democratic pollster Fred Yang, said that from the NFLs perspective, this is absolutely the last group you would want to retreat.
If Im the NFL Im freaking out about that a little bit, Roberts said. They are the very core of the football-viewing audience. If theyre retreating, then whos left?
Additionally, according to the poll, the decline was uniform across political lines with Democrat viewership falling 16 points and Republicans 14 points.
Ratings dropped 9.7% this regular season after an 8% fall a year ago, according to Nielsen. Media executives have pointed to overexposure and Thursday Night Football as a potential problem.
League executives point to the fact that prime-time ratings have dropped across the board, and the NFL has noted that it still had 33 of the top 50 most-viewed shows in 2017.
On Thursday, representatives of the NFL Players Association disputed the notion that player protests during the playing of the national anthem have been a primary factor driving viewers away.