Written by: Motown Blue
NFL ratings are down. Why, and what it will mean.
The NFL television ratings were just recently announced, and they are reportedly down 15% this season. Much like last season, when ratings declines were announced, excuses were made. Last year, it was the election coverage, and this year it was hurricane coverage. Of course, they will deflect and provide excuses. It is in their best interest to abate the alarm of advertisers that are a significant part of their economic pie.
We believe there are many relevant reasons that are directly attributed to the decline. The most significant is the erosion of product quality, which has been affected by the monopoly of the spread offense in college. This has limited the skills required to succeed in a pro-style offense because it limits receivers’ route-running skills. QBs sit in the shotgun formation and never learn the mental side of reading defenses and progressions.
Offensive linemen are woefully unprepared technique-wise, and it is clearly evident not just with the Giants but league wide. In addition, the CBA limits training camp practices, limits contact practices and offseason programs that all result in poor preparation. Steve Young aptly stated that September is the new training camp due to the above.
Another aspect that has already been felt but will continue to be felt moving forward is the decline of participation at the youth levels. Peewee football programs are down as well as high school programs. This obviously will lead to a smaller pool of talent to choose from. Parents are becoming more wary of their kids participating at a younger age or at all due to CTE discovery as well as other brain studies from those playing football. Recently, there was an article on the long-term effect of kids playing before age 12.
Another factor that many fans will not want to admit is the decrease in the violence of the game. Rules have been instituted to protect the NFL’s investments as well as a protection from legal liability. Gone are the days of watching Lawrence Taylor, Deacon Jones, Reggie White and even Michael Strahan commit bone-crushing sacks of QBs. Gone are the days of Ronnie Lott, Dick Butkus or Mike Singletary clotheslining a receiver coming across the middle. The rules not only limit the violence of the game but are now open to subjective interpretation that many can argue transcends beyond just hits.
The NFL revenue growth has also coincided with the over saturation of coverage. You have been fed a steady diet of garbage games on Thursday night, Sunday night and even Monday night, like last night’s 49ers vs. Rams much less Monday’s Lions vs. Giants. The decline in quality plus the spreading out of mediocre matchups does not pique the interest of the fans.
Social media, gambling, fantasy football and the attention span of the current fan base is also a significant contributor. The younger fan base is attached to their social media outlets for instant replays, news, fantasy football updates, etc. Yes, fantasy football has been a revenue boon for the NFL but has also been a major factor in viewership decline. Red Zone and social media are the predominant sources for information as it relates to fantasy football. Players, not teams, are the desired interest. Of course, the gambling sites play into this as well.
Where does this lead as it relates to an NFL franchise? The bottom line is the salary cap will see a gradual to significant decline. The economic squeeze as a result of this decline starts with the advertisers. Revenue will decrease as viewership continues to slide. ESPN has already felt the squeeze, as they have been hit significantly by declining revenue that has resulted in large layoffs. Those big TV contracts that the NFL was awarded will soon hit CBS and NBC, if not already. Those contracts will not be coming back. Advertisers will seek cheaper and wider avenues to reach the consumer. Social media platforms are also a significant part of that scenario.
The NFLPA will be much more stringent in bargaining on the next CBA. The NFL salary structure is much less progressive than the NBA or super-progressive MLB. This will only tighten the pressure on teams to manage the salary cap. Teams that hold large salary contracts to premium positions, notably QBs, WRs, DEs and CBs, will have significant cap issues in the future. As the reduction of revenue goes forward, those contracts will consume a larger and larger percentage of the cap. This will severely inhibit a team’s ability to field a competitive squad. Franchises that are ahead of the curve will start managing for this inevitable dilemma.
It is our opinion that Reese and Abrams have contributed to the current demise of the Giants. We all know Reese left the cupboard bare with poor drafts from 2011-2014, and some could argue that he has done a bad job in general. The defense was a wreck from 2012-2015, so Reese patched up the lack of talent in the unit by handing out big contracts to Snacks, Vernon and Jack Rabbit. This has only exacerbated the issue with the OL. Not only has he drafted poor personnel, but the large cap dollars spent on the defense limit the options to upgrade a porous OL.