NFL Ratings See Sharp Drop During 2016 Season

Prime time broadcasts took the hardest hits, but Sunday games also saw a decline

NFL ratings took a big hit in 2016. Credit: Lynne Sladky/AP

One of the big stories of the last year has been the decline in NFL ratings. But just how steep was the drop? 

According to ESPN, television viewership of NFL games has dropped by an average of eight percent for the 2016 regular season. That means that more 1.4 million fewer people watched football as opposed to last season.

Prime time football took the hardest hit. ESPN's Monday Night Football and NBC's Sunday Night Football games were down 12 and 10 percent, respectively. Daytime games on CBS and Fox fared a little better, but were down six and seven percent.

Exactly why the ratings have dropped is up for debate. Several reasons have been cited including the length of games, decline in play, more players coming forward to discuss long-term impact the game has had on their bodies and even Colin Kaepernick's decision to take a knee during the national anthem. The most plausible reason for the dip, however, has been the media coverage of the 2016 presidential election. 

"Everyone's got theories," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told the Wall Street Journal a month before the November election. "Our ratings are something that we'll continue to look at and try to make sure we're doing everything, not just to get them tuned in but to get them to stay tuned in. That's the issue."