The sport is a total mess, and the league has never made more money. Ratings for regular-season games fell 17% over the past two years, according to Nielsen, and after one week of play in the new season, viewership has been flat. This is a guide to how the NFL reached its remarkable moment of contradiction.
It’s still early, but the kickoff of the NFL season did not see another downward ratings spiral in the opening weekend. The average audience for the games across the four networks — CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN — was 16.6 million viewers, about even with the first week of the 2017 season.
CBS, NBC, Fox and ESPN have sold some $2.1 billion in advanced advertising for their NFL broadcasts this season, down only slightly from $2.2 billion last season, despite players controversial anthem protests and declining ratings. “On a week-to-week basis, there is nothing as consistent as the NFL for advertisers,” says buyer Adam Schwartz of Horizon Media. “Nothing else on TV compares to it.”
The Wall Street Journal reports that 21st Century Fox has struck a four-year agreement with Premier Boxing Champions for the rights to carry fights on the Fox broadcast network, Fox Sports 1 cable channel and pay-per-view, starting in December. The media giant is stockpiling programming in preparation for life after it completes the sale of the majority of its entertainment assets to Walt Disney Co. , a deal that will leave behind a “New Fox” focused heavily on sports and its Fox News Channel. Journal subscribers can read the full story here.
Kaepernick already had a deal with Nike that was set to expire, but it was renegotiated into a multi-year deal to make him one of the faces of Nike’s 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign, according to a person familiar with the contract.
Owners want players to agree to stand for the anthem. The union has so far backed the players’ right to protest. That leaves very little middle ground on the issue, and both the league and union must deal with factions within their ranks, complicating deliberations even further.