NFL TV Ratings Reportedly Down 8 Percent for 2016 Season

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJanuary 5, 2017

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
Jon Durr/Getty Images

The NFL reportedly experienced an 8 percent dip in television ratings during the 2016 regular season in comparison to 2015, according to newly released data.

Per ESPN.com's Darren Rovell, an average NFL game dropped in viewership from 17.9 million in 2015 to 16.5 million in 2016.

As seen in the following breakdown, viewership decreased regardless of the day of the week and the broadcasting network:

NFL 2016-17 Regular-Season TV Ratings
Game% Decrease
ESPN Monday Night Football-12%
NBC Sunday Night Football-10%
CBS Daytime-7%
Fox Daytime-6%

Per A.J. Perez of USA Today, the 8 percent decline represented a rebound from a 14 percent drop during the season's first nine weeks, which Brian Rolapp, the NFL's executive vice president of media, attributed to the presidential election:

"Presidential elections have always had an impact on our ratings, so we were prepared for a dip this season. ... We're pleased at how our viewership rebounded after the election and are looking forward to what should be a very competitive and exciting postseason."

When asked about ways to boost ratings at the New York Times' DealBook conference in November, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell brought up the idea of potentially trying to shorten games, according to Ahiza Garcia of CNN.com:

Should the games be shorter? ... We obviously want to take as much, what we call 'dead time,' non-action out of the game so that we can make the game more exciting [so] it's all action.

Can we do instant replay quicker than we've done it in the past? Should we look at ways to maybe take some commercialization out of the game? Either in less ads or maybe have the ads come in different ways than the traditional, what we call 'pods' which are two minutes and 20 seconds.

One factor that helped the NFL significantly was the success of the Dallas Cowboys, as they played in five of the league's six top-rated games of 2016 and averaged 23.7 million viewers in the second half of the season, per Gerry Smith and Christopher Palmeri of Bloomberg.com.

The Cowboys are the No. 1 seed in the NFC and are favored to reach the Super Bowl, which means the NFL could be in store for three highly rated playoff games.

While the league may need more than just the Cowboys to get its overall ratings back to where they were in 2015, Dallas appears built to be good for a long time, and the numbers suggest that is a boon for the NFL.


Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.