The NFL is always going to garner strong viewership as football is the most popular sport in America. But the attention paid to the game has waned just a bit in recent seasons.
Last night’s NFL kickoff between the Kansas City Chiefs and the New England Patriots dropped 12 percent compared to 2016’s season opener. According to TheWrap, KC’s 42-27 thumping of the Pats scored a 14.6 rating/25 share. Super Bowl 50 between New England and the Atlanta Falcons also saw a 7 percent drop in viewership compared to the year prior. Last year’s season-opener featured a rematch of the Super Bowl before it and put up a 16.5 overnight rating, per the outlet.
Despite the slight downturn, NBC still won the night among adults in the advertiser-friendly 18-49 demographic. The 14.6 rating was more than twice as good as the primetime averages for the other three broadcast networks combined. The Nielsen rating is also the best for any network offering since June 12, so the sky is most decidedly not falling on the NFL.
Many fans vowed to boycott the NFL last season amid former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s National Anthem protest. While #BoycottNFL campaign did pick up some steam online, the NFL’s drop in viewership could be more closely tied to the 2016 presidential election. Three of the debates competed directly against NFL games, drawing millions of viewers away in some of the top-rated political clashes in TV history. This season, Kaepernick remains an unsigned free agent.
Once the election concluded, the NFL’s ratings rebounded to previous levels. While nothing as nationally gripping as electing a new president is going down in the U.S. at the moment, it’s too soon to say that the NFL has a ratings problem.
Let’s check back in next week to see if this is just a blip on the radar or something that might continue going forward.