“The times they are a changin.” Bob Dylan said it best when he described the sports landscape in America as it continues into the 21st century. Consider that 100 years ago, there was not even such a thing as the NFL, football itself was a College Game that was considered embarrassing if a Man tried to keep playing it after graduating. It was probably looked at like a 25 year old wanting to skateboard. The Canton Bulldogs were a couple years away; So was the first Green Bay Packers vs Chicago Bears Game, which we know from watching each year when they shove that number in our face more often than McDonalds lets us know how many hamburgers it’s served.
Even 50 years is nothing in the scope of a changing landscape of professional sports in America. The change doesnt come from the games, nor from the networks that bring us the games. The change comes from the people who are watching sports, and they are watching it differently in 2017 than they were every decade gone by. The viewership of TV, a dying breed in itself, is in the hands of our most senior citizens. Themselves raised on the Tube, they are the opposite of todays youth who are getting more and more of their entertainment in non traditional formats, and with non traditional media. From 2011 to 2016, TV Viewership is up only among the most senior watchers, the younger you are, the less likely you are to be watching TV. As Cable companies try to get their last dollars like the 5 cents a minute long distance companies of the late 90s, our youth are getting their media on Tablets,Pcs and Smart Phones. To be fair, a 70″ TV when not hooked up with Cable, is nothing more than all three of those devices combined.
As a generation of CBS/ABC/NBC turned into ESPN/HBO/TNT/FX, the new generation is getting their “New Network” content from Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon. This age group is not likely to watch a sporting event on a TV either then, its going to get its sporting from the event itself, and what other sport offers 160 events per year? Major League Baseball: and the driving force behind the sports popularity is the new DFS phenomenon just beginning to sweep the country, educating the ‘One Team’ fan on all the other players on the field.
Most people were shocked to find out there was a decline of NFL TV Ratings, the last time we heard this was in the early 80s before the NFL found a flock of young stars and a TV Cable empire that pushed it to the masses. The modern expander will be DFS, Daily Fantasy Sports. Fantasy Sports are where people build their own make believe fantasy teams of Sports Stars they feel will do well in an upcoming game. Sports Stars are awarded points for their accomplishments, and after all is said and done, the DFS Player who has the most points wins. In traditional Fantasy, you may win the game against another opponent, in Daily Fantasy, you may win Money. In order for Fantasy to grow, its user base has to find some manner of success, even a fleeting one. The more information you can find on a Sports Star, the better prepared that DFS player is in his game. So again I’ll ask, what sport has the most amount of games that information can be assimilated and numbers crunched to show trends that are exploitable?
Major League Baseball.
And while the MLB fan is flocking to the game in droves, the NFL continues to try to find ways to make the in game experience match the greater At Home Experience. With todays 70″ 1080P Monitors, luxury reclining couches, cheaper food and drinks right at home, and a non ending stream of Fantasy data available, who needs to go to the NFL game anymore? The NFL is trying to figure that out.
There are other reasons why the NFL TV ratings are decreasing, the NFL is losing the part time fan, and losing the rarity appeal it once had. The NFL plays only 16 Regular season games, From mid Sept to end of December sometimes first week of January. The casual fan used to only be able to watch 6 hours of football on Sunday. Then Monday came, and all sports fans would watch Monday Night Football.
Today the NFL has saturated the market with football games. Not only did they add games on Sunday night, giving audiences a massive 11 hour windows of Pro Football on Sundays… but every Thursday Night on its own network the NFL Network Produces a Game a Week each Thursday. It gets better; 4 weeks during the middle of the season (It used to only be one week, then 2, then 3..) the NFL sends two teams to London in the UK to play to a British Football audience surprisingly adept at the American game. Due to the time difference, this starts a game at 9am on the east coast. Thats 15 hours of NFL football, and how long do you think it will be before there is a team in London, or a game a week in London?
There are those that think the NFL secretly hates the fact, that ESPN has made itself huge on the backs of the NFLs popularity, without paying the NFL a penny. IF so, squashing Monday Night Football, which ESPN produces and broadcasts, would be all part of the plan.
Another cause for decline or at least a theory on it is the effect of individuals, or individual teams. The NFL has Colin Kaepernick to thank for not standing during the National Anthem, but America is nothing but a forgiving country to its sports stars. This effect would have worn off, it did not.
During its regrowth from declining ratings in the early 80s, the NFL had the Deans of the announcing world..John Madden and Pat Summerall. Today the NFL has Joe Buck but he’s a better Baseball announcer, giving even more importance to the Chicago Cubs miracle win in the World Series.
stadiums like Wrigley Field, new Yankees stadium, New Camden Yard and more, will fuel the push toward MLB.
So what does it al mean? Is this the end of Pro Football in the USA? No, of course not…its simply a trend, and the NFL was in bad shape before when it had declining ratings before it straightened things out. An NFL Films special called TIMELINE has done a show on it, you can catch that on NFL Network on your TV.
Or iPad/iphone/smart TV if your part of that demographic!