NFL ratings were down all season, and there’s no reason to think they’ll get better next year

 

Football was down 9 percent during the regular season and 6 percent during the playoffs.

It doesn’t matter who wins the Super Bowl tomorrow. The NFL and its TV partners have already lost.

Pro football ratings were down throughout the last season. That’s a troubling data point for the TV Industrial Complex, which has viewed live events — and live NFL games in particular — as the last wall of defense against the internet and other competition for eyeballs.

When ratings first dropped last fall, the NFL’s defenders cited a number of different possibilities for the decline: Competition from Trump-infused debates and other election coverage; particularly crappy games; and the absence of big stars, including Tom Brady.

And sure enough, once the election was over, and the games got better, and Tom Brady came back, ratings did improve. The Packers-Cowboys playoff game last month, for instance, drew 48.5 million viewers — a record number for a divisional playoff game.

But even with all of that improvement, NFL games still lagged. Pre-election, ratings were down 12 percent over the previous year. And after the election — and including the playoffs — they were down 5 percent, MoffettNathanson analyst Michael Nathanson notes:

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