Kicking Off The Ratings Game
ADWEEK|August 21, 2017

The NFL is suiting up for a season that’s become more fragmented than ever.

A.J. Katz

With two-and-a-half weeks until the start of the 2017 National Football League season, is everyone really ready for some football? The answer could prove more complex than catching an Eli Manning spiral.

Fox and CBS—which hold the rights to the Sunday afternoon games—saw single-digit audience declines from the 2015 to 2016 season. ESPN’s Monday Night Football and NBC’s Sunday Night Football were down double digits.

One cause for last year’s ratings drop was significant interest in the presidential race, which drew attention away from football. (The year-over-year ratings gap did close a bit after the election.) Then there’s the ongoing negative publicity surrounding concussions and player protests.

“The news hasn’t let up, and we don’t know what’s going to happen in Q4,” observed media consultant Brad Adgate. “There could be some unending news event that could play a great unknown. News and sports are very similar in that they’re live and can create appointment viewing that you may not foresee.”

“We’ll see if it was a ratings blip,” said Linda Yaccarino, NBC Universal chairman of advertising sales and client partnerships, who considers the NFL “one of the strongest, most impenetrable brands on earth.”

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