The Business of Ball with Joseph James Francis

Weaker NFL Attendance and Ratings: Who’s to blame?

By: Joseph James Francis

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A hot topic as of late has been the anthem protests around the NFL. Spurred by the initial demonstrations from Colin Kaepernick, legions of players have taken to kneeling during the national anthem played at the onset of each NFL game. Many people see these protests as the reason the NFL has been declining in ratings for the past few years. I see it differently. I think there are several other reasons why the NFL is declining in attendance and ratings. Despite what people like President Trump might think, people are still hungry for the NFL like they have always been and maybe even more hungry. So why the decline?

1) People are consuming media differently

Being on the front lines of sports popularity, I see the popularity of the NFL as a growing entity, not fading. What has changed is the way people are watching their favorite teams. Many people I know are streaming their favorite team’s games over the internet. Also with the onset of Fantasy sports, watching one team play is just not that appealing. Many people have bragging rights and money riding on most or all the games that occur on Sunday. This means that sitting in front of the TV or going to the game doesn’t appeal to them. Their Sunday ritual involves multiple computer screens and a bunch of take-out. In this area, it will only get “worse” as the NFL is turned into a virtual game of Madden.

2) Popularity is hard to measure with ratings

For many of my die-hard NFL loving friends, Sunday involves them going from bar to bar watching multiple games at once. In fact, if you go to sports bars around the country you will see a solid crowd of NFL fans glued to the TV’s chugging beers. The lack of home cable subscriptions has led people to look for the TV they want to watch elsewhere and sometimes that includes a bar or even a friend’s house with a big screen. This makes it tough to track actual ratings and popularity.

3) The NFL has priced themselves out

When something costs too much to enjoy, the natural reaction is to steal it or stop altogether. Going to a live NFL game has become increasingly expensive and that has turned a lot of people off. Also, with NFL Sunday Ticket subscription costs reaching absurd numbers year after year, more and more people are inclined to steal or stream their service. There is a cost to enjoyment ratio that everyone has, and the NFL has crossed that line with many. As much as I love the NFL, I will not buy NFL Sunday Ticket. Television, merchandise, and live games cost far too much for most of the public.

Politics have not forced my hand in the NFL viewership dilemma. If anything, it is the stance of team owners like Jerry Jones that turns me off more than people like Kaepernick taking a knee. My NFL costs me virtually nothing per year and as much as I love the sport, that is how much it will continue to cost me. When people like Donald Trump try to use misguided stats to prove an illogical point that benefits their side of the aisle it creates a false narrative. Hopefully, the only ones that believe him are the ones that have always believed him all along. The NFL attendance and rating woes are more a factor of the evolving times and as the way we consume the sports we love changes, it would behoove the people in charge of these leagues to evolve along with us.

Joseph James Francis is a Financial Advisor, Money Coach, and Blogger. He can be reached at:

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