NFL Television Ratings Score Late-Season Touchdown Following Presidential Election

Posted on: January 7, 2017, 12:00h. 

Last updated on: January 8, 2017, 09:24h.

NFL television ratings for the 2016 regular season were down on average eight percent, but the last two months provided league officials with plenty of optimism. Roughly 16.5 million viewers tuned in to each NFL game this year, 1.4 million fewer than the 17.9 million that did in 2015.

NFL television ratings Green Bay Packers
One of the most popular franchises in football, the Green Bay Packers’ six-game winning streak is thought to be one reason why NFL television ratings recovered in the second part of the season. (Image: Dan Powers/USA Today Sports)

But that figure is actually less dire than earlier expected. Prior to President-elect Donald Trump’s shocking upset over Hillary Clinton, NFL viewership was down 14 percent.  The eight weeks of NFL games following the November 8 election saw viewership down just one percent compared to last season.

That’s a strong late-season surge for the NFL, and a much-needed reprieve for sportsbooks in the Silver State. Nevada won just $6.6 million on football in November, a 77 percent year-over-year loss.

The Nevada Gaming Commission hasn’t yet released its December revenue report, but the change in viewership might hint at stronger earnings for oddsmakers.

Americans Tune Into Politics?

Media observers questioned whether the league was losing some of its luster during the first eight weeks. Critics cited not only the presidential election, but also the slow pace of games, player safety concerns, and possibly whether some viewers were tuning out in protest of players protesting the national anthem.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell repeatedly denied such accusations on the latter, saying the league has endured plenty of scandal in the past. Goodell continually said the election was to blame for the ratings plunge, and it appears he was at least partially correct.

While politics isn’t the go-to entertainment at the end of the day for the majority of Americans, it can be when the theatre creates enough drama. In 2016, there was of course no shortage of controversy, scandal, outrageous comments, and well, downright addicting political television.

The first debate between Trump and Clinton was the most-watched one-on-one political discussion in US history. According to Nielsen, 84 million Americans were tuned into the debate held at Hofstra University.

President Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns were more civil against Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

The last time the NFL seemed to suffer due to a presidential election was in 2000 when ratings dropped 11 percent. Former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Al Gore were contending for the Oval Office at the time, and the drawn-out outcome that featured a recount kept voters glued to news channels over football.

Strong Finish

The second half of the year provided more thrilling games, another likely reason viewership rallied. Strong play from the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys, as well as having Tom Brady back on the field for the Patriots, all brought more fans to their living rooms.

The Packers ended the season on a six-game winning streak. One of the most popular teams, Green Bay has attracted more Super Bowl bets in Nevada than any other franchise.

Though the NFL has largely been a disappointment in 2016 for broadcast and cable networks, as well as Las Vegas, the playoffs seem poised to offset some of those losses.

The 12 remaining teams vying for the Super Bowl feature some of the most storied franchises in the NFL. From Kansas City and the Steelers, to the Cowboys and Giants, plenty of thrilling matchups are on the way.

An ample amount of intriguing spreads and moneylines will be, too.