NFL Commissioner Goodell: ‘We don’t think we’ve lost viewers’

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell poses with two marines during the 2012 NFL Draft. Image: MarineCorps New York/Flickr

Speaking publicly for the first time about his pro sports league’s sudden double-digit TV audience loss, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said a number of factors have led to the ratings decline, but he doesn’t think the league has lost popularity. 

“We don’t think we’ve lost viewers,” Goodell said in a Wednesday afternoon press conference. “When you look at ratings, you have to look a little deeper than that. It’s viewers, but also how long they’re engaging for. A lot of times, people will leave a game for whatever reason.”

RELATED: NFL enduring unprecedented double-digit TV ratings drops this year

Sponsored by Signiant

BIG FILES, BIG CHALLENGES: Why Dropbox, FTP and shipping hard drives are no longer viable for media and what you can do about it

Large file transfer software — SaaS that makes it easy to move any size file with speed and security, no matter over what distance — is essential to your media business. Read this paper to learn why you should move on to a next-generation solution.

Prime-time viewership of NFL games — the most powerful audience driver in the pay-TV ecosystem right now — has been off as much as 20 percent.

Goodell ticked off a number of factors, most of which were already speculated by media pundits: two of the games with the biggest year-over-year declines went against presidential debates; the NFL Network, which has a much smaller reach than CBS, has taken over some of the rights for Thursday Night Football; and some of the games have been pretty boring.

“Everyone’s got theories,” he said. “Our ratings are something that we’ll continue to look at and try to make sure we’re doing everything, not just to get them tuned in but to get them to stay tuned in. That’s the issue.”

RELATED: NFL’s TV ratings power ‘is never going to be what it was again,’ Magna Global exec says

"We don't think that's a factor and neither do our network partners.”

The ratings problem seems to be getting worse, not better. The combined viewership average for NBC’s Sunday Night Football and ESPN’s Monday Night Football was down 40 percent year over year. In fact, the Houston Texans’ 26-23 defeat of the Indianapolis Colts generated the lowest audience total for Sunday Night Football over the last five years. And the Arizona Cardinals’ 28-3 beatdown of the New York Jets garnered Monday Night Football’s second worst TV ratings ever

All seven NBC and ESPN prime-time NFL regular season telecasts have been down this season. 

Goodell and the NFL can take some solace in that they’re not alone. Through seven Major League Baseball league championship series games, the audience is down 8 percent. 

Read more on

Suggested Articles

FierceVideo is putting together an Emerging Leaders feature, and we’d love to consider somebody from your organization.

Fastly announced Origin Connect, a direct private network connection between an organization’s origin server a Fastly Shield point of presence (POP).

Haivision launched Haivision Play Pro, a free mobile player.