NFL Down $500 Million in Ad Revenue, But is Political Football the Only Thing to Blame?

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Top Tier Gear USA


The NFL is hemorrhaging money right now, at a rate that could add up to a $500 million loss in revenue compared to last year. That revenue loss is being felt by the TV networks that carry NFL games, CBS, ESPN, Fox, and NBC. But revenue losses for networks mean significantly reduced TV contracts for the NFL.

One of the main factors in that loss of revenue has been a 20% drop in audience since 2015, the year the NFL saw a peak in viewership. Many will look at the NFL’s recent spate of National Anthem protests as the main culprit behind this decline. The protests began last season when then-San Francisco Quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a new while the National Anthem played.

To be sure, the NFL is most likely getting some blowback from the protests and from the NFL’s initial support of the protests, as well as the NFL’s continued mixed reaction to the protests. But does that alone explain the loss in ratings, which equals a loss in revenue?

There may be other factors coming in to play that are leading to the loss in ratings for the NFL. One of those factors could very well be the rules changes designed to protect players, changes that happened as a result of discoveries made about the ongoing issues that players suffer as a result of concussions, issues that have led players to experience significant health issues, even mental issues, including suicides (such as Junior Seau) that have been linked to what is called CTE.

A long-term problem for the NFL linked to CTE is being seen already at the middle school and high school levels as less and less kids are now playing football thanks, in large part, to parents not wanting their kids to play a sport they are increasingly looking at as being too dangerous to play.

On this front, however, there are rapid developments in helmet technology that might, down the road, restore some lost trust in the game that parents are currently experiencing. But right now, CTE has already triggered significant rules changes that negate one of the major draws to the game, hard hits.

Another factor is the addition of two LA teams, the Rams and the Chargers. These teams serve the 2nd biggest market in the country, but that market does not seem to be all that interested in these teams. The LA Rams, for instance, played a big game this past week in LA against the New Orleans Saints, possibly the then-second hottest team in the NFL, behind the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Rams were 7-3 and the Saints were 8-2. This was a big showdown that, across the country, garnered a lot of attention. Yet the stadium itself was, perhaps, 2/3 full. What’s more is that lack of interest in coming out to see the games live is also translated to the tv sets.

The 2nd biggest market in the country is not interested in the two teams you brought from areas that supported those same teams strongly. It’s not tuning in to see those games and the NFL is not giving them non-local choices, so, overall, the ratings in the 2nd biggest market have gone down significantly.

There may be other factors as well, factors not everyone is mentioning, such as illegal livestreams that meet the needs of a large audience that has left cable TV in favor of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc.

There is a shift in how we do things, possibly even in how we think, that has emerged from social media. People simply do not have as long of an attention span as they once had, and many seem to be content with simply watching the highlights of the game after it ends.

Lastly (and no, this is not in order of significance), we get to the protests. It’s more than just the protests and the inept way the NFL has handled these protests. It’s the politicization of everything, including the NFL. Before the protests, the NFL threw its political weight around to go after North Carolina after it passed its so-called bathroom laws. Before that, the NFL threatened the state of Arizona with losing its scheduled Super Bowl if it did not roll back legislation that seemed to ‘legalize’ profiling of people who looked Hispanic.

Whatever you feel about those decisions, when the NFL decided to go all-in with one particular political faction in America, it was bound to alienate itself from another political faction. You can’t have your game and politicize it too, NFL. I believe this factor actually IS the most significant factor of them all, though proving that assumption could be extremely difficult. So while the protests in and of themselves may be doing some damage, the larger issue is doing far more, the progressivization of the NFL.

But I also believe that this factor alone would NOT have produced the significant declines we’ve seen in the ratings, nor will leaving politics out of the NFL fix a lot of the other issues outlined above that, midterm, and definitely long term, threaten the NFL’s status as being the marquee sports league in America today.

The diminishing ratings of the NFL, and even the suggestion by some that the NFL cannot survive the changes currently taking place, is yet another indication of how fundamental the shift in cultural realities has been and will continue to be over the next few years as we find ourselves, again and again, having to come to terms with the fact that a lot of the old institutions, the old ways no longer seem to be working in the environment now emerging today.

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Contributed by Paul Gordon of iState TV.

Paul Gordon is the editor of and co-host of numerous podcasts including VisPrivus, Lulzilla and Full Auto. He is also the publisher of a local digital newspaper, the Tioga Freedomist

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  • Rebel w/out a Cause

    Maybe – just maybe – it’s the relentless commercials that the NFL shoves down our throats. Every change of possession, every injury time-out, every time-out, change of quarter, half-time, any excuse at all. We’re bombarded with commercials. I went to the Falcon’s game last Sunday. The GAME was held up so the TV commercials could air. WTF, NFL?

    • darkhorse

      $$$$ $$$$$ $$$$$$$$

    • You can call me Al

      I am a Brit and I have been to 1 x baseball game and 1 x American football game.

      So with no disrespect intended, I shall summarise them up quickly below:

      1. Baseball.

      I went to watch the Houston game, when a hero returned from somewhere (no idea and no idea), I sat in the stands, very impressed with the stadium ++, then it started, FFS how slow can a game be ?. But then I noticed the electronic billboards and as you infer, the non-stop adverts…. but the thing that really got me was from start to finish there was one that was monitoring the stock exchange NON-STOP.

      2. American Football.

      Your description is absolutely spot on, in he game again it is the billboards mainly for me; such a distraction that in hindsight, I thank them for – because the game itself is crap.

      • tonye

        I love football, the real kind… but you got to admit than unless you understand the tactics, it can look boring.

        And then you got the Mexican First Division and the US MLS, which would be third division in La Liga or perhaps second division in Scottland. I think that’s what tequila and whiskey were made for: to survive them.

        But, Baseball is not so bad… watch it in a big TV at home with a PVR so you can do your own instant replay.

        Google the 1975 World Series.

        • You can call me Al

          You state “But, Baseball is not so bad… watch it in a big TV at home with a PVR so you can do your own instant replay.”; but that is not the same as a 3 hr. match !!

          I would however watch baseball again – you buy the drinks.

          • tonye

            It can get rather interesting.. in some ways it’s like football (not American style). The duel between the pitcher and hitter is always interesting, the throws are amazing, then you got the base playing..

            Did you miss this year’s World Series? Game seven was a disappointment, but the other games going into late innings were quite good.

          • You can call me Al

            “The game can get rather interesting.. in some ways it’s like football (not American style). The duel between the pitcher and hitter is always interesting, the throws are amazing, then you got the base playing..”

            Whahahahahha – OK mate; I love it and it is the same as Football – whahahahaha.

            PS Let us talk about Rugby next time.

    • Uncle Sham

      thats what RedZone is for

  • Worried

    the loss is due solely to the unpatriotic actions of the players, the league and its advertisers. roflmbao, i love it

    • darkhorse

      hope the players and owners end up living on the stree…

  • John C Carleton

    I have never spent one dollar, on tickets or merchandise for “professional” sports.
    My sport was being able to hit the bullseye with a high powered rifle at a thousand yards.
    Enjoy a good high school football game, it is real, a real contest by our young folk.

    • j.hendricks

      Same with Nascar, go to see blood, why not enjoy baseball or soccer, oh you need brains for that, not for me!!

  • Roy Hobs

    The Spectators going to NFL is the perfect example of “The Matrix”.
    Sheep lead to the slaughter. One step above “Walmart Americans”.

  • Smarty

    I attended one pro football game in my life, and that was 30 years ago. I was invited for free, so I only paid for a few beers. Since then, I’ve watched them at home with my fireplace, my family/dog, a bathroom close by, and all the snacks/drinks want. It parallels insanity to pay the costs for parking, probably (guessing) $7.00 for a beer, and $5.00 for a “death dog” when you can just watch the thing at home, in comfort, with replays. These days, we record the game half or all the way, and then FF through the commercials so we’re only watching the actual game. The NFL chose to eat itself (like all liberals) by getting political, paying crazy wages tot he players, and exacting the costs of all this insanity on the fans. Watching their demise is as fun as watching the actual games…

    • Wally D

      I agree the NFL is killing it self, but as for the players receiving so much money. Well if they team can pay them salaries to the players then how much are they making?

  • mncold

    I’m guessing the NFL is losing money and fans for a number of reasons. Influx of people who like and play soccer and schools choosing soccer due to lower costs and ignoring the concussion issues soccer also has. Fans tired of paying for stadiums when the NFL and owners could build them without taxpayer help, not to mention the rising costs of seats, tickets, parking, and food. Listening to very well paid people tell the rest of us how to live. And so many other niggling, little things.

  • Wally D

    Seems editing is at an all time low as well.

  • Jeff

    Professional football stopped being worth watching after the 1960s. By the 1970s any thoughts about “It’s a game, stupid” had been completely lost to spectacle, power, and politics. Where’s the fun in that?

    The Superbowl has become a national embarrassment of riches, almost too painful (besides boring) to watch. The owners are completely to blame here. They were going to lose on this whole flag deal, regardless. Football has become all about power: “Kiss my red, white and blue ring.” If the players stand then it’s about compliance, and servitude and serfdom; all of which is not lost on the “fans.” If the players kneel it’s about submission: “Kneel before Zod!” (With an snide aside to the “fans” — “Where’s my new stadium?”) Oh yeah, and the body count has just gotten too high.

    • tonye

      Steelers in the mid 70s…. come on! They would have buried anything in the 60s- and perhaps forever- even if you took away Lynn Swann’s StickUm. Franco Harris, Terry Bradshaw, LC Greenwood, Jack Lambert, Andy Russell… etc, etc, etc…

  • tonye

    I live in SoCal.

    We used to get all kinds of good national games.

    Then the Lambs and the Dead Bolts moved in… like who gives a d@mN about those two.

    No one has any interest on them and then we don’t get good national games and then the players go all BLM on us..

    The good side of this: the overall health of males in SoCal is getting better as we spend Sundays doing something instead of sitting on the coach driking beer.

    NFL? Lambs? (I thought we kicked them out of town with Georgia…)… Deadbolts? I though folks in San Diego liked their Bolts?