National Football League television viewership dropped almost 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.
The decline in ratings - which was bigger than last year's 8 percent drop in viewership - meant the networks had to make good on commercials to National Football League advertisers in order to compensate for the audience shortfall, according to one network executive who spoke on the condition of anonymity. During the 2015 season, an average of 17.9 million viewers tuned in.
In 2012, viewership was off 5.1 percent from 2011. But as the season went on and the controversy waned somewhat, the ratings decline narrowed.
December 10, 2017: San Francisco 49ers players kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Houston Texans.
As for the playoffs, starting this weekend, they were among the NFL's most-watched programs in 2017. This season, both Fox CEO James Murdoch and CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus blamed the ratings slide on the proliferation of games. NBC's Sunday Night Football dropped from 20.323 million to 18.175 million, ESPN's Monday Night Football from 11.390 million to 10.757 million and Thursday Night Football (which aired on NFL Network as well as CBS or FOX) from 12.438 million to 10.937 million. Moreover, over 1 million consumers cut the cord in the first three quarters of 2017 alone, which, in turn, likely affected the viewership of live sports and the NFL. The NFL TV numbers are still the best in the business. A higher number of Thursday night games as well as additional early morning Sunday games allegedly lead to overexposure, the executives argued in November. Signing these types of deals allows the National Football League to maximize its exposure as more consumers turn away from linear TV.