NFL Viewership Decline: “Why?” vs “What Now?”

by Jenny on January 8, 2018 Comments Off on NFL Viewership Decline: “Why?” vs “What Now?”

At this point, the NFL needs to determine what can be done rather than why this is happening.

This past year was a particularly difficult one for the NFL in regards to viewership and brand image. Among a number of different factors, including tech disruption and rising FCI, the volatile political and social environments contributed to a (roughly) 10% decline of viewers from 2016.

Regardless of which way you lean regarding a topic such as player protests, the reaction among sports fans has largely been the same… they stopped watching.

A recent study by Ozy Media surveyed over 1,200 self-identified NFL fans from across the country to shed some light on the decline in TV ratings. This study found that one-third of sports fans consciously and purposefully stopped watching the NFL in 2017.

From an analytic standpoint, I’m looking for fan feedback to guide decision making. We are constantly encouraging our clients to seek actionable rather than merely observational data-driven insights. It’s certainly important to understand why customers, in this case NFL fans, feel and behave the way they do. However, from a business standpoint it’s equally, if not more, important to develop a strategic plan of action.

The NFL has already been experiencing a decline in viewership. This is happening, and it is a trend rather than an anomaly. So, is it more important to figure out why it is happening… or what can be done about it? The aforementioned survey found that 32% of respondents stopped watching NFL games “in support of Donald Trump.” It was the most frequently selected reason among respondents, which is an interesting observation.

The question still remains, what can the NFL do to win back these fans?

This is where many brands misinterpret the value of feedback research. Yes, it is important to understand the “why” in regards to declining market share. But the real value of customer feedback data is gained when asking, “What can we do about it moving forward?” Unfortunately I’m not seeing much solution-based research happening which will leave the NFL in a reactive rather than a proactive position.

Considering the number of external factors outside of the NFL’s control, the viewership forecast is not bright. Without strategic efforts to collect actionable fan feedback insights, the league’s path-to-success will be (at best) dimly lit.


Is your brand ready to face its 2018 challenges head-on? Start by seeking solutions rather than reasons. For over 30 years we’ve equipped our clients with the data-driven insights needed to make accurate, informed and impactful decisions yielding results rather than more questions. 

We’re here to answer any questions you might have. Feel free to give us a shout!

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Jenny Dinnen is President of Sales and Marketing at MacKenzie Corporation. Driven to maximize customer's value and exceed expectations, Jenny carries a can-do attitude wherever she goes. She maintains open communication channels with both her clients and her staff to ensure all goals and objectives are being met in an expeditious manner. Jenny is a big-picture thinker who leads MacKenzie in developing strategies for growth while maintaining a focus on the core services that have made the company a success. Basically, when something needs to get done, go see Jenny. Before joining MacKenzie, Jenny worked at HD Supply as a Marketing Manager and Household Auto Finance in their marketing department. Jenny received her undergrad degree in Marketing from the University of Colorado (Boulder) and her MBA from the University of Redlands.

JennyNFL Viewership Decline: “Why?” vs “What Now?”