WASHINGTON — With the 2016 Presidential Elections in the rear-view mirror, fans of full-contact entertainment have returned to the NFL in droves.
Broadcast numbers through Week 14 show that viewership is down 10 percent over the course of the season. These numbers are reversed from Week 10, however, when league viewership was down by an average of 14 percent.
“It’s an encouraging rebound,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told ESPN on Friday. “I think it proves that the election was certainly a factor.”
That’s not to say that the news is good for everyone. Prime-time matchups on Sunday and Monday nights have historically delivered some of TV’s biggest ratings, period. But ESPN reports that Monday Night Footabll is off by 15 percent, NBC’s Sunday Night Football is down by 13 percent, and the NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football is down by a dismal 17 percent.
Sunday afternoon football has actually fared best, with FOX experiencing just a 4 percent drop in viewership, while CBS has witnessed a 7 percent slide.
Under Goodell’s tenure, the NFL has shown a willingness to tinker with rules across the board, and he acknowledged that more changes could be coming to commercial breaks before the end of the regular season.
He rejected, however, any argument that the dip in viewership could be attributed to waning interest in the sport or a lack of competitiveness.
Indeed, the average margin of victory this season is 9.83 points, the lowest since 1932 (9.13 points). That year, the Redskins were in their inaugural season, known as the Boston Braves, and played home games at Fenway Park.
Games have also stayed competitive throughout, with nearly 70 percent of all 2016 contests within one score in the fourth quarter. If the season ended today, that would be the highest mark since 1935 (71.7 percent).
Over the last two weeks of the regular season, look for the NFL to consider ideas that would expedite the official review process (approximately 15 minutes per game), and commercial breaks (2:20 since the NFL’s TV debut).