NFL viewership is officially turning into a problem for the shield. One week of bad ratings is fine. Two weeks of bad ratings is concerning. Three weeks of bad ratings is a trend. We are now entering week five of lower than normal viewership. The NFL can bury its head in the sand, but advertisers can’t wait around for a ratings rebound. Now news is coming out that the NFL’s play at cord cutters is going about as well as their TV ratings.
In theory the move to digital streaming made sense — I still believe it’s where the future of content consumption is going so the NFL had to make a move — but in practice it is not paying dividends. The low streaming numbers aren’t good for the NFL. They especially aren’t good for Twitter. Yesterday TWTR got crushed in the market when news broke that companies bidding on the social media site were pulling their offers.
The problem for the NFL is that they can’t get people to watch on TV. Any ratings dips that were due to market trends — cord cutting — should have been combated by the free stream. People may be dropping their cable, but dropping the NFL altogether wasn’t a reality the executives on Park Avenue were considering.
Maybe the bad PR finally caught up to the NFL. It’s tough to offend both sides of the political aisle, but the combination of domestic violence inconsistencies, overreaching punishments, Colin Kaepernick and horrible messaging could drive some viewers away. The problem is that not nearly enough people would care to actually act and boycott watching football. Some people have said this is the main reason for the viewership drop. It is not.
Let’s focus more on Twitter streams not living up to expectations. Let’s just go Occam’s Razor. The most simple explanation is probably correct. Thursday Night football is not a good product. It’s a running joke on social media on how bad the games are. Jets v. Bills Week 2 wasn’t a competitive game. The Patriots shutout the Texans in Week 3. The Bengals v. Dolphins was only fun if you are from Cincinnati. Last night’s game was a punt fest for the first half with two horrible quarterbacks.
That is the main reason Twitter streams aren’t living up to expectations. The Thursday night product is not good. It’s not fun. A lot of people saw it as a money grab to begin with, and nothing has changed that perception. The actual product and tech is pretty enjoyable — even though the stream is on about a two play delay.
Twitter streaming was not going to save the NFL, but the idea that it is underwhelming is a blow to the league and its advertising partners. Maybe this is the new normal. If it is the NFL’s reign as TV champion won’t end. It just won’t be as profitable.