by Amanda Ortiz


“The NFL’s television ratings are dropping” was a statement we all heard during the weeks leading up to Super Bowl LII – 9.7% in the 2017 season, to be specific. After a tough season of anthem protest and major injuries to some of the league’s top players, many people are no longer tuning in to their big screens at home to watch games. Why are these ratings down? Well, we just might be looking at the wrong numbers.

Yes, the NFL’s television ratings are dropping, but have you taken a moment to look at how many people are streaming? Despite the president’s public accusations that the anthem protests were the reason for the NFL’s rating woes, TV viewership as a whole has been on a massive decline due to the increasing popularity of mobile streaming services. The most enthusiastic users of those services? The league’s key demographic, ranging from ages 18-34, which is one of the largest proponents of convenient streaming.

Despite the regular-season ratings drop, the Super Bowl is still one of the most dominant shows on TV. During Super Bowl LII, NBC Live Sports Stream reported 2.02 million viewers. The network said that this was the most live-streamed Super Bowl ever, with a peak of 3.1 million streams. NFL RedZone also attracts several viewers, although NFL Network and DirecTV have yet to share their numbers.

Overall online viewership was at 106 million, while TV viewership peaked in the 4th quarter of a tense game at 112.3 million people. It was the 10th most-watched NFL championship in the league’s history, yet it was still the lowest figure since Super Bowl XLIII in 2009. This year also saw a 7% drop in ratings from last year’s game.

If we’re seeing such a decline, then why are advertisers still paying record-breaking prices for commercial spots during the game? The average price for a 30-second Super Bowl ad is steadily rising. Despite the decline in viewer ratings, companies are willing to pay more for less – upwards of $5 million to claim their spot. This year, Tide reportedly spent $16 million for their series of ads. When you consider the stain that was lest on their brand by the Tide pod challenge, those $16 million were well spent.

Even though less people are watching, big NFL games like the Super Bowl create the most effective opportunities for advertisers to reach large live audiences. Because marketers can’t afford to turn their backs on the opportunities the league provides, networks like FOX, CBS and NBC are taking advantage of the opportunity to charge higher prices for their spots. Of the 50 most watched events on live TV, NFL football games accounted for 39 in 2017. See how much power that name holds?

Many have shared their theories as to why the NFL’s ratings have gone down. Between the increasing popularity of streaming services, various player injuries, and the league’s involvement in a tense political landscape, it can be hard to pin down an exact reason. However, despite the ominous forecast, marketers are still willing to pay the big bucks to get their name into a 30-second commercial spot during an NFL game. Time will tell what will become of one of America’s favorite pastimes.