NFL ratings drop nearly 10 percent but still rule
New York (AFP)
National Football League television viewership dropped nearly 10 percent in the just-completed 2017 campaign, according to Nielsen ratings released this week, but gridiron telecasts remain among the most popular US shows despite attacks from US President Donald Trump.
Trump attacked the NFL on Twitter for not cracking down on players who kneeled in protest during the pre-game playing of the US national anthem, encouraging people not to attend games and pointing out ratings declines.
"Many stay away because they love our country," Trump tweeted in September.
According to the latest Nielsen figures, an average 2017 game audience fell 9.7 percent to 14.9 million people. That follows a decline of eight percent in 2016 to 16.5 million viewers.
Nielsen data showed, however, that the NFL remains the biggest moneyspinner in American television with 20 of the top 30 rated shows of 2017 and 37 of the top 50, up from 28 of the top 50 in 2016 when the Rio Olympics and US Presidential election were factors.
The NFL erosion was in line with US prime time television ratings, which fell nine percent last year.
The kneeling Trump derided as an insult to the nation, the flag and the US military was said by protesting players as a protest of racial injustice and social inequality in the wake of police killings of unarmed African-Americans.
Papa John's chief executive John Schnatter stepped down after blaming slower sales on the NFL's "poor leadership" in response to the kneeling protests. He later apologized.
But the top-rated US show was NBC's Sunday Night Football at 18.2 million viewers, even though that was the show's lowest viewership figure since 2008.
NFL Thursday telecasts averaged 10.9 million viewers, down 12 percent from 2016, while ESPN's Monday NFL telecasts hit a record low audience of 10.75 million, down six percent.
The dip comes after the NFL signed a new streaming deal with Verizon last month worth a reported $1.5 billion.
"While seemingly everyone from the Papa John's guy to the President of the United States has seen fit to weigh in on the NFL's season-long TV ratings slide, pro football's Kung Fu Grip on American viewing habits remains indisputable," wrote Ad Age's Anthony Crupi.
"Despite losing nine percent of its year-ago audience and coming under attack from both sides of the political spectrum, the NFL in 2017 continued to cast a long shadow over the media landscape."
© 2018 AFP