Further Review

Steve Hummer's Further Review blog offers comments, asides and quick hits on the state of sports

NFL on alert to lower ratings

Here’s a twist: While the Falcons certainly have stimulated interest in their product – putting the strut back into your local personal seat license sales staff – questions concerning the overall popularity of the NFL have arisen.

Just last week the Wall Street Journal reported that the league sent out a memo to its owners trying to calm concerns over declining television ratings. Do not panic. No one take a dive off his three-story stack of cash and sweetheart municipal deals just yet. Or words to that effect.

The NFL remains the biggest toy in the rumpus room. It couldn’t continue its geometric growth – the birth rate just couldn’t support it nor could the world’s supply of nachos and bean dip keep up with the demand.

But through the first quarter of its 2016 season, the league has seen an 11 percent drop in ratings, even more among that 18-to-34 demographic that advertisers love to get their claws into before they have children and their usefulness as careless consumers has expired.

This all has massive bottom-line implications, of course. The rate for all those commercials that no one sees so long as his or her remote has battery life are set by the number of eyeballs staring blankly at the game.

I’d like to think the reason for this is that the discerning football watcher has noted the college product on Saturday has been vastly more entertaining than the pro one on Sunday, Monday and Thursday. And that there being a finite amount of idle time available, said viewer is dedicating a larger portion to the color and pageantry branch of the football tree. There being no hard statistical proof of this, I’ll move off that soapbox.

There have been other theories. Feel free to pick one, or choose a combination platter.

The appetite for senseless violence is being sated by the presidential election – both debates to date have conflicted with NFL games.

There has been a “Kaepernick effect” in play, a general disgust with the “national discussion” sparked by the quarterback’s refusal to stand for the national anthem. A backlash, if not an actual boycott. Of course, now that the 49ers have reinstated Colin Kaepernick as the starter, that could bring back some fans who might wish to start cheering for the concussion.

Viewing habits in this short-attention-span, fantasy-football world have changed. Who has time to watch a game gradually unfold, to appreciate the finer points of field position and control of the line of scrimmage when there’s the RedZone channel?

Face it, some of the match-ups have possessed all the intrigue of an infomercial. Come to think of it, better to watch 30 minutes on a food dehydrator than a moment of that Carolina-Tampa Bay game Monday night. Perhaps this will change as the season ages and more concrete themes develop. Let us hope.

Whatever the cause, the Falcons fan base must rally. Now that it has been re-energized, it has a lot of football to watch in order to make up some of this ratings deficit. The lifestyles of the rich and the muscular are depending upon you.

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About the Author

Steve Hummer writes sports features for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He covers a wide range of sports and topics.