Don't read too much into NFL TV numbers this year for a variety of reasons
There's a good chance if you follow sports and are on social media, you've seeing a certain group of people crowing that politics is killing live sports in the pandemic era.
To quote: "Don't believe everything you read. Particularly on social media."
The element proclaiming viewership=politics is, um, shall we say....misinformed and only one element of several affecting TV viewing. They are presuming because of their beliefs and the like-minded circle of people like them that, well, if these people aren't watch, nobody is.
It's a really bold and highly misinformed assumption.
Are actual viewing numbers down? Yeah, they are. Not dramatically so, but they are down. The NBA has struggled a bit with their "Bubble", viewership is very obviously down.
Yes, that's right, surprise...not many people watched mid-August afternoon NBA games. Primetime is different. When people aren't at work, surprise--they're more likely to watch.
Does the NBA activism factor into this years viewership? Yeah, I'd be lying if I said it didn't. Without question, there is a percentage of people who won't watch because the players and league have taken a political stand those viewers don't agree with. Of course its A factor, but it isn't THE factor. I'm assuming and am fairly confident in saying a majority of the people not tuning into the NBA due to athletes being vocal are not the normal NBA viewers.
Same thing with week 1 of the NFL season. People were freaking out and those who live for political trolling where jumping for joy when the premlinary viewership for the Sunday games showed a significant drop.
But those same people didn't realize they were crowing about not the actual numbers, only the preliminary. Neilsen, the company which measures TV ratings releases preliminary numbers which are almost never the ACTUAL, final numbers for any program.
Sports Media Watch gives a great breakdown of Week #1 viewers (final numbers):
Don't ask why they do that, just know they do. It doesn't make a lot of sense. But the whole business of measuring viewership makes very little sense and would take a book to try and explain. It's a weird TV quirk and one that even people who work in the business don't like or understand.
Did politics influence NFL viewership in week #1? Yeah, probably to some extent. Final viewership was down roughly 5% over the previous year. Remember, this is 2020 and very little of anything in 2020 has gone according to previous years and comparisons are probably not a good indicator of, well, anything.
This article from Television News Daily explains the amount of people actually watching broadcast television is down and impacting ratings:
One of the common social media explanations: Well, since nobody can go to the games, surely there must be humungous viewership. This assumption is narrow minded at minimum and exactly that, an assumption. To make that leap, you are assuming that all the fans who would be at a game must automatically be watching on TV at home.
You, me or anyone else has no way of knowing that. You're assuming people in the year of COVID-19 are home and just steadfastly watching TV because they aren't going out. It's a bold assumption on your part.
Are there some people who do this? Yeah, sure there are. But not nearly as much as you think. If you're married with a family, you're assuming there are not family obligations keeping someone from watching. You're assuming that person isn't doing something else. There are a lot of overriding factors and just because you do something, you should not assume "everyone" does or feels the same way you do.
My point here is this: Don't read too much into anything related to 2020. This is not nor will it ever be considered a "normal" year for anything, never mind sports. Just because things have happened a certain way in the past does not apply to this particular year.
We all should be now be fully aware of this. If we're having a conversation in 3-years about a continued decline in the NFL or NBA audience, then yeah, maybe we've got a trend going on. But not right now.
I know virtually none of you (what few of you do) nor the incessant and annoying social media trolls who keep harping and whining about athletes using their platform and voice to speak out about things will stop complaining and thinking the sports apocalypse is nigh....
At the end of the day, the NFL is going to draw viewers, more viewers than anything else on broadcast television. It will take a long, long time and a ton of people bailing out for that to ever change. The NBA will go back to their winter schedule and their regular viewers will tune in. They always do.
To summarize: Yes, I hate politics. I hate everything about what it has become and how it has taken over every segment of daily life. It's beyond appalling and embarrassing. I don't know how we went from living our lives and complaining about stuff from time to time while agreeing to disagree to where we are now...but we're here.
Let's stop lumping our sports into it. If you don't agree or like the politics of a team, sport or athlete, don't pay attention to it. Watch the game for what it is....a game.
Nobody says you have to agree or listen to them. Just watch. Because to be perfectly honest, if you are that offended about what someone ELSE who has no direct impact on your life thinks than maybe the issue isn't about them....
Think about it....