Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

NFL Memo Blames Plummeting TV Ratings On Presidential Election, Bad Matchups

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

This afternoon, Darren Rovell tweeted a memo sent by the NFL’s executive vice president of media Brian Rolapp and senior vice president of broadcasting Howard Katz to the league’s “media committee,” regarding the league’s cratering television ratings, primarily for primetime broadcasts. Rolapp and Katz place the blame on two factors—neither of which involves the wave of pro-black national anthem protests started by Colin Kaepernick.

According to the memo, the NFL believes the main culprit to be interest in the presidential election, citing rising ratings among the big cable news stations and the record-low viewership for the Sept. 26 Monday Night Football game between the Falcons and Saints that went up against the first presidential debate. (The league expects the same thing will happen this Sunday night, when the Giants and Packers have to compete with the second debate.)

The league sees the second issue as shitty games, basically. The memo reads:

Additionally, we are challenged in comparison to the first few weeks of the 2015 and 2014 seasons, which from a ratings perspective were two of the three best starts we have had in the last 10 years. No two seasons are the same when you consider the different matchups, game windows and other factors.


It’s true that this year’s primetime games have been mostly bad. Thursday games are always wretched from both a matchup and play perspective, and Monday nights haven’t been much better. NBC’s Sunday night broadcasts usually get the week’s plum matchup, but this year’s slate has been rough, including a Panthers-Broncos game without Peyton Manning, a Patriots-Cardinals game without Tom Brady, a Bears-Cowboys game without Tony Romo or Jay Cutler, and a Chiefs-Steelers game that was over by the end of the first quarter.

Of course, the NFL is just offering up theories like any of us could. More to the point, the league hopes the ratings can be blamed on the presidential election or a rash of poor matchups. If it’s something more structural—a growing disgust of the sport or league, a lack of megawatt starpower that may not be filled—then a league who has used an unending shower of money to wash away its many sins may have a longterm problem on its hands.

You can read the full memo below:

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