By now, you probably know that NFL ratings are down. After all, that’s been a season-long narrative. There are many explanations for the drop in numbers, but should we buy into the fact that the NFL is losing viewers and, perhaps, influence?
“Yeah, I do, but not to the extent that we saw earlier this season,” CBS Sports Radio host and SI.com’s Maggie Gray said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “I think that was (largely) election-related. I really do. But I think overall, we’re going to see a decline just because people are going to consume it in a different way. So I think TV ratings will be down. I still think people are going to be exposed to the product, if you will, I think on Twitter and streaming it in different ways. So I think that people are still going to follow the NFL. I just feel like the actual TV ratings are going to be down.”
Gray believes some viewers have been turned off by the number of players committing domestic violence and other criminal activities, as well as the still-surfacing findings surrounding concussions, brain damage and CTE.
“I think you kind of lost those viewers already,” Gray said. “I don’t know if that’s going to continue the steady decline, but I wonder how kids feel about the NFL these days. I don’t have kids, but I’m wondering if you have an 8-year-old or a 9-year-old, do they love the NFL? I grew up in upstate New York, so obviously I love Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed and Bruce Smith. I loved those guys. If I’m 8 or 9 or 10, do I love those guys? I think I love LeBron and Kevin Durant.”
Of course, while some viewers may no longer watch football because they feel it’s an inherently dangerous sport, there’s also a large number of viewers who think football has lost its soul.
“I think it’s pretty split,” Gray said. “I think we thought a lot of people have said, ‘Football’s too dangerous, I’m going to take my son out of it, I wouldn’t let my son play football and I’m going to put them in anything but.’ There’s a whole other part of the country that says football’s gone way too soft. They don’t think football is building the same kind of character that it did a generation ago. They feel like the game has changed too much. Too many participation trophies, too much offense, not allowing defenses to tee off the way that they used to – I think it’s really split. I think it’s super divided. But it will, in my opinion, lead to a decline. Will it be unseated as the No. 1 sport far and away in this country? Probably not now, I don’t think, for the next 10, 20 years. But eventually.”