New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said the NFL can trace its ratings decline in recent years to the sheer amount of entertainment options that are now available to the public.
“There’s so much for us to consume, as we all know,” Brady said during an interview with journalist Jim Gray at the Milken Institute Global Conference on Monday. “There’s so much happening. The amount that I’m doing – I hate to say it, I don’t follow [the NFL] like I used to, because there’s so many other things to follow. It’s just what can grab your attention. There’s a lot more competition today than there’s ever been, I think. Especially with social media — for people to consume information or to consume content.”
While the NFL brought in a projected record $14 billion in revenue in 2017, the league has contended with a ratings slump dating back to 2016. The NFL’s television audience sank 9.7% to 14.9 million viewers per game during the 2017 regular season after dropping 8% to 16.5 million viewers per game in 2016, according to Nielsen data.
Critics have offered various potential reasons for the decline, including national anthem protests that rankled some fans and led to a feud with President Donald Trump, player safety concerns, a diluted product stemming from too many NFL games per week and the rise of the “cord-cutting trend” that has reduced television audiences.
Despite the ratings drop, NFL games still accounted for 20 of the 30 highest-rated television programs of the year in 2017, according to Nielsen.
“The NFL has had a great product,” Brady added. “People love watching the game. I think it’s still doing better than, I would say, every other program out there, but compared to a time where there was less things to do, it doesn’t live up to those standards.”
Concerns about NFL viewership have not diminished demand among broadcasters to air the league’s games. Fox will reportedly pay more than $3 billion, or roughly $600 million per year, to air the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” series through 2022. Amazon, the NFL’s streaming partner, recently agreed to extend its deal to simulcast “Thursday Night Football” on its “Prime” subscription service through the 2019 season.