COLUMNS

Drowning by numbers

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com

NFL TV ratings have tanked this season, and they have no one to blame but themselves.

Sure, there are other factors that have contributed to the dip in viewership, factors that are beyond the league’s control.

This circus of an election that finally came to an end last week certainly hijacked some viewers as the three televised debates generated huge ratings.

Also, the World Series took away some fans.

In any other year, the NFL would have held up nicely against the “Winter Classic,” but this wasn’t any other year. The Cubs were in the World Series for the first time since 1945.

So many people that normally would skip out to watch some football, tuned in to see if Chicago could finally win their first championship in over a century.

Of course, the league wants us to believe these are the only two reasons why people have been turning the channel on their product, but it’s not. Much of their current plight is self-inflicted.

The No. 1 reason why the NFL has failed is overexposure and the over-saturation of its product.

NFL games are on TV three days a week now. They need to learn that sometimes, too much of something is a bad thing.

Less is more. You should leave your fans yearning for more action, not giving them so much that they grow sick of it.

For starters, the NFL needs to eliminate Thursday night games. When I think of Thursday nights, I think college football. NFL? Not so much.

It surely doesn’t help that many of the matchups offered to viewers in nightly games have been downright putrid. They’re giving us games that only the fan bases of the teams playing could find watchable.

Who thought it was a good idea to schedule a Browns game on a Thursday night? Outside of Florida and Tennessee, who wants to watch the Titans vs. Jaguars?

Ratings are already expected to be low for Halloween night, but when you schedule a game between the Vikings and the Bears, you’re asking for viewership to mirror that of an NHL game.

The product that the NFL is putting out on the field isn’t helping matters.

With all of the rule changes added over the years, it’s hard for games to get in a good flow. Every few plays, action is being stopped because of a penalty.

Defensive backs can’t lay a finger on receivers without being flagged for illegal contact. Defensive holding calls are being called in abundance as well.

You can’t breathe on a quarterback without getting flagged for roughing the passer, and any big hit a defensive back unleashes upon a receiver is getting flagged for unnecessary roughness.

A horribly ugly Seahawks vs. Cardinals Sunday night matchup summed it up perfectly as they combined for 16 penalties and just 12 points in what resulted in a tie.

According to recent polls, another one of the league’s problems has come off of the field. Multiple polls indicate that as many as 50 percent of fans site the National Anthem protests as the biggest factor in them tuning out this season.

It’s an extremely polarizing topic. While many have come out to support players like Colin Kaepernick and Ascension’s own Eric Reid taking knees during the anthem, it’s something that has alienated and enraged many others.

They have retaliated with the protest of turning the channel.

The NFL is in a tough position. Their higher ups may not like the protests, and the numbers indicate that they are losing fans because of it, but it’s not like they can stop players from doing it.

They could if they wanted to, but that would cause a public relations nightmare. Those who tuned out might tune back in, but millions that were watching would decide to tune out in protest.

The NFL didn’t drop the ball in letting the players take part in this type of protest. It is their First Amendment right, whether you agree with it or not.

They just let it get out of hand. They made sure to have cameras pan to kneeling players each game for the anthem. Commentators were constantly discussing it at nauseam.

When millions of your viewers are already agitated by the protests, it might not have been the best strategy to jam it down their throats for weeks on end.

I do believe that most of the fans that have turned away due to the protests are mostly casual supporters. It’s hard to imagine die-hard fans completely boycotting the product because of something that happens before the games even begin.

Either way, the NFL has lost its mojo, and it needs to make some changes to get it back.