NFL ratings down 9.7% during 2017 regular season

Dec. 10 2017 San Francisco 49ers players kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Houston Texans

Another factor brought up that could be attributed to the ratings decline is the NFL RedZone network, which offers roving coverage of Sunday afternoon kickoffs and only shows fans footage of games when teams are in scoring positions. "Thursday Night Football", which is shared by CBS, NBC and the NFL Network, averaged 10.9 million viewers, a 12% drop from the previous season.

Nevertheless, NFL games remained among the most watched TV programming, accounting for 33 of the top 50 programs during the year.

The decline has been a topic of national discussion since Week 1 - with kneeling-player protests during the national anthem, poor play, concussion controversies and oversaturation of TV games among the most-cited causes for the fan revolt.

The viewing habits that are disrupting the rest of television are also starting to affect the once seemingly invincible NFL.

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But the top-rated United States show was NBC's Sunday Night Football at 18.2 million viewers, even though that was the show's lowest viewership figure since 2008.

The average audience for a game was 14.9 million this season, down 9.7% compared with 16.5 million viewers for the 2016 regular season, according to Nielsen.

Mulvilhill noted that the ratings decline for Fox's Sunday games was more pronounced at the start of the season, when the anthem protests were a major story and President Donald Trump was weighing in. Both NBC and ESPN had the most-watched shows every single week, in terms of audience and in all key male demographics, for Sunday Night Football and Monday Night Football games this season. Over at CBS, 15.7 million viewers indicated an 11 percent drop from 2016 and a 9 percent decline was felt at Fox with an average of 17.7 million viewers.

Online video highlights are also cutting into TV time. Less cable subscriptions means less viewership, generally. The NFL saw its ratings drop in 2017 by a larger percentage than they dropped in 2016.

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