NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged his league’s ratings decline this season while painting a rosier picture where the NFL still dominates TV.
Last week, new Nielsen figures showed that an average of 14.9 million viewers checked in for games this season, down 9.7% from 16.5 million per game during the previous season. That decline is higher than the 8% drop for the 2016 season.
"We always want ratings to go up, but we're 37 of the top 50 shows, which is higher than ever," Goodell told reporters before a playoff game in Jacksonville, Florida, according to Sports XChange.
Goodell also said that 20 of the 30 highest rated shows of 2017 were NFL programs and that Sunday night primetime NFL games have been number one for the past seven years.
"I think dominance of the NFL in television is still very clear."
Indeed, the NFL’s relative dominance over the rest of television shows that declines in the NFL’s overall ratings could be emblematic of declining viewership for traditional live TV.
Despite the ratings declines, ad revenue from NFL games continued to increase through the first part of the season. Through September, ad spend during NFL live game broadcasts across all networks rose 2% from $504 million one year ago to $513 million. Standard Media Index (SMI) did not include pre- and post-game coverage in its ad spending estimates.
Ad loads across all NFL broadcasts also rose 2% during that time period, according to SMI.
The NFL has also taken steps to better reach audiences outside of the traditional TV environment. The league signed a streaming deal with Amazon for Thursday Night Football, and has expanded its streaming deal with Verizon to begin offering Sunday Night, Monday Night and Thursday Night football games across Verizon’s digital properties including AOL and Yahoo.