NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell shrugged off declining television ratings, saying the league’s games resulted in some of the highest-rated shows in 2017.
"We always want ratings to go up, but we're 37 of the top 50 shows, which is higher than ever," Goodell told a small group of reporters shortly before the Jacksonville Jaguars' playoff game versus the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, according to ESPN. "We're likely to be the No. 1 show on Fox—excuse me on all of television, the Fox Sunday afternoon game. Sunday night, prime time is for the seventh year in a row the No. 1 show. Thursday night football is No. 2.”
Television viewership declined nearly 10% across all networks during the 2016-2017 regular season, according to data from Nielsen, while an average NFL game was watched by 1.6 million fewer people in 2017 versus the prior year— an overall decline from 16.5 million to 14.9 million, according to ESPN. Ratings saw a similar decline last season, falling 8%, the sports network reported. Still, 20 of the 30 top-rated shows on television last year were NFL games, according to Nielsen data.
The league has been widely criticized by the public this season, including by President Donald Trump, after players began kneeling during the playing of the “Star Spangled Banner” prior to the start of games. The protests began last year when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the patriotic song to protest injustices against the African-American community.
Despite declining ratings and criticism for his handling of the anthem protests and concussion controversy, Goodell and the NFL agreed to a contract extension through 2024. The five-year deal, which begins once the current contract expires in 2019, could allow the commissioner to earn as much as $50 million annually, as reported by FOX Business senior correspondent Charles Gasparino.
Under Goodell’s tenure, the league has seen its revenue increase in addition to striking a deal with Amazon to stream 10 “Thursday Night Football” games, broadcast by NBC and CBS, for members of its Prime subscription service. Amazon reportedly paid $50 million for streaming rights, which would be five times the amount Twitter paid last year.