The NFL TV ratings improve in almost every network as the controversy over players' protests diminishes
President Donald Trump (left) tackled the problem of player protests during a rally in September 2017, and criticized the commissioner Roger Goodell (right) for not applying any rule enforcing compelling players to The Star Spangled Banner
By Alex Raskin, sports news editor for DailyMail.com
President Donald Trump's claim that the ratings of the NFL during the 2016 and 2017 seasons have declined due to players protesting during the national anthem seems to be an exaggeration, if not an outright lie, according to a USA Today study on Nielsen data from the seasons 2016 and 2017.
Although the timing of the decline certainly supports Trump's premise, that the protests are damaging the NFL television ratings, USA Today's review of comScore data from 2016 and 2017 suggests that the impact was minimal if it existed.
USA Today mostly ignored data from home market games because those ratings were on average 16 percent higher than other games and not representative of general trends. The newspaper also focused on specific markets and noted whether they were going for Trump or his democratic challenger Hillary Clinton in 2016.
NFL players have been protesting since 2016 with the aim of fighting inequality
Although the survey is a & # 39; weak & # 39; Supported Trump effect, focus more often on football factors, such as the success of the local team.
So while it is true that the five markets where NFL ratings showed the biggest drop, they all voted for Trump – apparently they borrowed the idea that the protests lowered the ratings – they also happened in markets with difficult franchises .
For example, the Arizona Cardinals fell back to 8-8 after losing David Johnson back to a wrist injury, and NFL scores dropped 27.9 percent in Phoenix; In Houston, where valuations fell by 25 percent, the Texans only ended 4-12, largely due to season-related injuries to quarterback DeShaun Watson and defensive end J.J. Watts; and when the NFL scores in Indianapolis dropped 21.5 percent, the Colts 4-12 without quarterback ended Andrew Luck, who was recovering from a shoulder injury.
In Houston, where valuations fell by 25 percent, the Texans only ended 4-12, largely as a result of seasonal injuries to QB DeShaun Watson and defensive end J.J. Watt (photo)
Conversely, New Orleans, an area that was also heavily connected to Trump, improved the local NFL scores by 12.6 percent, while the Saints continued with an impressive 11-5 campaign.
So regardless of the political tilt of a region, the ratings improved in areas with successful teams – even when those teams were not on television.
And when the home team was on TV, the NFL ratings were even stronger.
In Green Bay, where Trump collected 60 percent of the votes, the Packers still achieved a remarkable 43.8 local score in 2016 on the four occasions they played on Sunday Night Football. (That is, 43.8 percent televisions in the market are aligned with the Packers game)
Even a less successful Packers team succeeded in achieving a 46.2 rating on Sunday Night Football in 2017 – the highest of every market in the two seasons analyzed by comScore.
According to USA Today, the areas in the country that won Trump with double digits still had the same decline in ratings as other regions that supported Clinton and were less inclined to oppose the protests.
Even in Buffalo, where fans vocally protested against anyone protesting during the national anthem, the NFL Nielsen ratings still rose 4.4 percent in 2017 thanks to the play-off bound Bills. Many conservative areas in the country have been watching more football in the past two years, suggesting that the protests were not an important motivating factor.
Another discovery suggesting that Trump's rhetoric on the issue had relatively little effect comes from the fact that the NFL ratings declined at the same rate from mid-September to the end of October in both 2016 and 2017.
Trump started hammering the NFL in September 2017, and the next month, Vice President Mike Pence left a game with Indianapolis Colts when 49ers players protested. During that piece, the League saw its widest-spread protests, and the issue received much more attention than perhaps at another time.
If Trump's attacks had an effect on the NFL, the ratings of the league would probably have fallen disproportionately faster than in the same period in 2016.
According to Richard Lapchick, president of DeVos Sports Business Management Program at the University of Central Florida, these findings are useful.
It underlines the fact that fans are coming back or that they are not leaving & # 39 ;, he told USA Today. & # 39; Maybe it did not have such a big impact as [Trump] he said. & # 39;
Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence are standing at the national anthem before the start of an Indiana Colts-San Francisco 49ers match in Indianapolis in 2017. The Pences walked away when members of the 49ers protested during the hymn
The reality, according to the assistant professor at the University of Syracuse, Emily Thorson, is that there is not one clear factor influencing the NFL's ratings. Other issues, such as the NFL concussion crisis and the trend that people are canceling their cable subscriptions, were likely to have an impact, she told USA Today.
By the way, even with the downtick of the rating, the NFL still boasted 37 of the top 50 highest-rated television programs in 2017.
And things look better for the NFL in 2018. Not only are the ratings around 1 percent overall, but according to Fox Sports executive vice president of league activities and strategy Mike Mulvihillm, fans look for longer pieces.
One of the hidden statistics in the ratings so far this year is that the average length of the alignment has increased & # 39 ;, Mulvihillm told Sports Business Daily. & # 39; The average viewer that is displayed will stay informed for a longer time. Perhaps this is caused by the fact that the number of points has increased, the number has increased, the penalty points have dropped and the repeat reviews have failed. All this makes for a nicer product. & # 39;
And if the ratings go up because of the product, and not because the tensions about the national anthem have cooled down, it is true that football, and not politics, determines the NFL's ratings.
Fans who oppose the protests have certainly made their voices heard during games in & # 39; 16 and & # 39; 17, but a USA Today study suggests that the NFL public refused for other reasons