By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 10.25.2016
It seemed like the NFL was getting it when they signed on with Twitter to live stream the first 10 Thursday Night football games. Then they limited the amount of original content with NFL footage that the 32 teams could post on social media outlets such as Twitter. Lately, the media has been abuzz with the ratings decline through the first seven weeks. It appears that the NFL is calling the wrong plays when it comes to media.
Drew Harwell of the Washington Post penned an article a week or so ago trying to explain the possible reasons for the TV ratings decline. There are many variables that are effecting the ratings including the Presidential Election, cord cutting, and an aging demographic.
Harwell made a couple of interesting points in his article. First, during the 2000 and 2008 Presidential Elections, the league saw a ratings decline. Second is that overall TV viewership among those 24 years old and younger is down some 40%.
Another intriguing variable is the cord cutting. While apps like Sling TV and Watch ESPN increase in usage it is not enough to offset the viewership decline on traditional TV. What this means is that, yes people are watching in “non-traditional” ways (via mobile phones, tablets, laptops, etc) but these numbers are big enough to say ‘hey, people are just watching this way vs the traditional way.’
One way to embrace those younger fans is to reach them where they are. On mobile devices and on social media. Kind of thought that the NFL was doing this when they signed the deal with Twitter to steam the Thursday Night games. Then they limit game highlights on team social media accounts. The teams have come up with some creative solutions that help feed their fans desire for info but also troll the NFL league office at the same time.
The NFL should be the leaders as far as video distribution on social networks. This should be one of the most important things that the NFL does outside of the game itself. Do bad ratings lead you to not watch a game on a Sunday? Probably not. Does bad social media discourage you from following your favorite team? Probably. If you can’t see the awesome one handed catch by Julio Jones that everyone is talking on Facebook then where do you expect someone 25 years old to see it?
Overall, the NFL isn’t going anywhere but they can certainly stop shooting themselves in the foot. They can do this by getting their content to fans where fans are which is everywhere. Will ratings take a hit? Sure but you’ll make up that revenue and exposure on other platforms and on some platforms that haven’t even been created yet.