Friday, December 14, 2012

Shhhh. NFL Ratings Are Down. Yes, Down. Shhhh!

Granted, not by much... but you just KNOW the league would be TRUMPETING the opposite, were it true.

The Wall Street Journal peels back the numbers on what I have said all along: there actually IS something called "too much of a good thing." Overexposed, is overexposed. The more you see of anything, the less special it becomes, and as such leagues would be wise to carefully think about what that "sweet spot" of wanting more really is.

Writes Matthew Futterman...
For the second consecutive season, the NFL, that behemoth of the television business that sucks the air out of everybody else's ratings whenever one of its games takes place, is seeing a slight drop in the number of people who are tuning into its games. Excluding this first full season of Thursday night NFL Network telecasts, NFL games are averaging about 17.4 million viewers per game, down 2% from last year and 3% from 2010. 
These numbers can't be explained away by a lousy sample. Through the NFL's first 14 weeks, the winning points have been scored in the final two minutes, or in overtime, 47 times. That ties this season for the most close games to this point since 1970.
Caveat #1: I'm not sure if "carving out" the full Thursday numbers this year helps or hurts his point, but I am guessing if you included the Thursdays, ratings would be slightly up.

Caveat #2: He goes on to point out that NFL football still delivers a fucking C-130 sized load of desirable male eyeballs to the set every single week - something every other TV show would kill for.

That said, you always have to keep your ear the the ground on these things, because when there are massive shifts in sports fans attitudes and behaviors, it often starts with a dull, distant rumble.

Commenter Martin Fisch on the WSJ site made a great point I had not considered or tracked with any kind of hard data: "It's the commercials... stupid."
About 15 or so years ago the NFL made a commitment to completing games within a 3 hour framework. That effort didn't last too long as broadcast fee rights continued to escalate far beyond the rate of inflation. The NFL and its broadcasters abandoned that goal in order to enable the broadcasters to add more and more commercials to their telecasts in order to defray their money-losing NFL broadcast properties. The first casualty was the old 4 pm Eastern start of the doubleheader games which was moved to 4:15 pm. Most of the additional time was allotted to commercials. The most recent NFL TV contracts extensions again significantly increased broadcast fees to the networks. The result: the new 4:25 pm doubleheader start. Once more, the additional ten minutes enable several more minutes of commercials.

The number of minutes of commercial time has increased markedly in the past dozen or so years, to the point where there is no continuity or pace to an NFL game. A touchdown and extra point are followed by 2 minutes of commercials. The ensuing kickoff takes place then is immediately followed by 2 more minutes of commercials. Perhaps two plays are run then a player goes down on the field with an injury. The broadcast is immediately swung to another 1.5 minutes of commercials. Thus there are close to 6 minutes of commercials in the midst of a kickoff and a couple of plays. This scenario is played out throughout the game making for a chopped-up broadcast with no cohesion. Maybe people are just getting fed up not watching as much due to blatant commercialization of every broadcast.
While the 2 minute "commercial" sandwich around every kickoff after a score is something I have hated for years - hell, just make it a 4 minute block and maybe I can take a solid dump without having to hit pause - I wold like to know exactly how much more TV spot " inventory" the networks are now allowed to sell per game, as opposed to say 20 years ago.

More vexing to me, however, is what the league has seemingly become when I watch it - yes sir, yes sir, three screens full!

And that is...

1. A trainwreck of horrible tackling and eye rolling showboating.
2. A series of extremely dubious personal fouls or pass interference calls that change games.
3. A dissertation on the overly complex rulebook by the refs.
4. Microscopic examination of almost every play, followed by anger over replay's amazing ability to STILL get it wrong!

Yet........ there's still the heart pounding resiliance of a Adrian Peterson, the supernova rise of an RGIII, the surgical precision of a Tom Brady, and the 8-trillion different amazing ways a game can be won/lost in the final minutes of a game.

As such the NFL remains, the country's most irresistible sporting drug of choice.


  1. 4 minute dump? What are you the Usain Bolt of bowel movements? After consuming nachos, pigs-in-a-blanket, a dozen beers and some wing zings I need all of half time and even then I am cutting it close.

  2. Agree with Danny ruined. How can you even get comfortable in 4 minutes or get any reading done? By the time the noon central round of games is on, I'm working on the next days morning constitutional.

  3. Both the Thursday and Monday night games are usually bad match-ups and the announcers suck. I know that you like Tirico, Czabe, but most people agree that he sucks.

    Greed has taken down many an empire. The NFL would be wise to not push the envelope and leave the people wanting more of their product as opposed to their current plan of shoving it down out throats every chance they get.

    On a related note, the Thursday night game needs to go. It ruins fantasy leagues and football pools. I used to run a football pool for 10 years, but then the Thursday night game came along and no one would get their picks entered in time. It was too much of a pain to keep it going. Same goes with Fantasy leagues. People don't set their lineups before the Thu night games.

  4. I think a clue to this problem can be found in the music used on NBC's Sunday game (and ABC's MNF a few years ago). They play some country song that it is clearly not a good fit for football because they feel the need to keep the white portion of the audience. The NFL (and the networks) fear losing the white viewers because the teams increasingly have a gangsta look with the darker unicolor uniforms, the do-ragged players, the tats, corn-rows etc.

    Racial differences among the audience and clumsy network attempts to compensate are very revealing. The networks spend much $$ on market research. If the networks are trying to address a problem, you know the problem is real.

  5. i have a script written (partially) for an NFL parody. The opening scene will just be a montage of the ridiculousness of the current "League."

    There will be a kickoff to a perennial all-star like hester, cobb, or sproles. the ball will sail beautifully (nfl films style, capturing every spin/nuance of the kick--complete with dramatic music and a sabol). the electrifying returner will grab the ball, elude two tacklers at the thirty, spin quickly, and then tirico/nessler/constipated michaels/underselling Buck will say: and we cut to commercial as we get this exciting game underway.
    cue boner/slasher movie/emasculated man/stupid husband commercial.

    back to live action as they tell us electrifying return for a td is under review. all scoring plays are under review...they tell us...we'll be right back as they cue to a promo for some desperate Modern Family ripoff sitcom.

    we get to see the extra point by some european soccer player. they start replaying the return as they go to a commercial. again.

    Back to the next kickoff, and there is the biggest goddamn Ford logo you will ever see on your screen. you can make out on the periphery of your screen that there is a sunshiney, busty, beautiful buxom blonde cheerleader shaking it for the home team. you see nothing but the pom-poms and maybe half a bare midriff . No effing wonder we need cialis as the rest of the sponsors roll by.....

    this is just the opening montage. if u have ever seen "baseketball" you can see where the rest of the movie will riff off of.

    as much as it disgusts me, and as much as it is watered is still 50 times better than the NBA, and 25 times better than the NHL or MLB. and i can't quantify exactly how much better it is than soccer. maybe a quazillion? or whatever our national debt is. SMH!!!!!!

    cue three liberals raising a conservative kid sitcom commercial or movie with an upside down plane that starts with the "IN a world" deep guy voice. fuck me. praise marty moose. holy shit.

  6. Commercials have driven me to only watch football on the NFL RedZone channel. I love watching all the games and not having any commercials.

  7. First off this rating article is pointless since it excludes 1 entire game every week.

    Second off, I've been saying the same thing about the commercials and the NFL since the beginning of time. The overwhelming amount of commercial breaks really ruins the game for me - always has. Worse yet, most of you dullards actually LOOK FORWARD to the commercials when it comes time for the NFL's biggest game, the Super Bowl!!

    mblosik also makes an interesting point about the game trending more towards the black fan ala the NBA.