Darren Rovell obtained an internal NFL memo on the ratings declines so far in 2016, where they are down 11 percent across all networks.
"“Prime-time windows have clearly been affected the most, while declines during the Sunday afternoon window are more modest,” the NFL’s top media executives, Brian Rolapp and Howard Katz, wrote. “While our partners, like us, would have liked to see higher ratings, they remain confident in the NFL and unconcerned about a long-term issue.”"
The memo also cited the 2000 election as a comparison, and how the networks saw between 4 and 11 percent declines in ratings. On the topic of Colin Kaepernick national anthem protests and other high-profile protests, the NFL does not think it is having any effect (consistent with what Ty Duffy wrote yesterday).
"The executives also said that they saw “no evidence that concern over player protests during the national anthem is having any material impact on our ratings. In fact, our own data shows that perception of the NFL and its players is actually up in 2016.”"
The election and coverage is almost certainly having some impact. One game (the Monday night Falcons-Saints game) went head-to-head with a debate. Not mentioned, though, is another factor in which the league has some hand: the lack of top matchups with high-profile QBs. Peyton Manning retired, and Tom Brady has been out for four weeks, serving his suspension, and missing the Sunday Night opener in primetime, as well as a Thursday night matchup with Houston.
Here are the starting QBs in stand-alone NFL games this year:
Cam Newton-Trevor Siemian
Carson Palmer-Jimmy Garoppolo
Ben Roethlisberger-Kirk Cousins
Case Keenum-Blaine Gabbert
Ryan Fitzpatrick-Tyrod Taylor
Aaron Rodgers-Sam Bradford
Carson Wentz-Jay Cutler
Jacoby Brissett-Brock Osweiler
Dak Prescott-Brian Hoyer
Matt Ryan-Drew Brees
Andy Dalton-Ryan Fitzpatrick
Ben Roethlisberger-Alex Smith
Eli Manning-Sam Bradford
Drew Stanton-Blaine Gabbert
The best QB matchup in terms of name recognition for both, and career production, just happened to be the game that was directly opposite Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.