The NFL didn’t have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, at least not when it comes to its TV ratings.
The league’s three national holiday games dropped in viewership by a combined average of roughly 19% compared to last year’s ratings. Fox’s early afternoon game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Detroit Lions was down 10% in viewership from the early game on CBS last year; CBS’ late afternoon game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Los Angeles Chargers was down 25% from the afternoon game on Fox last year; and NBC’s prime time game between the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins was down 19%.
Even though the NFL commands a larger audience than most of TV, the ratings hit is eye-popping since Thanksgiving is a major holiday for the league and its broadcast partners. It’s also more ratings woes for a league that is already beset by two seasons of uneven numbers.
This year’s sluggish holiday viewership could be blamed on a myriad of factors, with the primary reason being that the games weren’t very exciting.
The Chargers’ 28 to 6 drubbing of the Cowboys was not just a boring game, but it was it overshadowed by last year’s afternoon game, which saw the two teams combine for 858 yards of total offense and averaged 35.1 million viewers.
The numbers for the Cowboys-Chargers game could have also been affected by a carriage fight between CBS and Dish Network that took place over Thanksgiving. The standoff between the two networks meant the game was blacked out for millions of Dish customers.
Two big rivals– the Redskins and the Giants — both of whom have strong fan bases took each other on in the night game, but both teams are having lackluster years and went into the game with a combined 6 and 14 win/loss record. The Giants lost 20 to 10 on Thanksgiving.
The league’s biggest critics are using the declining ratings to show that players kneeing during the national anthem in protest are hurting the league’s popularity. President Trump, arguably the NFL’s most vocal critic this season, took to Twitter again on Tuesday to criticize the NFL.
“At least 24 players kneeling this weekend at NFL stadiums that are now having a very hard time filling up,” Trump tweeted. “The American public is fed up with the disrespect the NFL is paying to our Country, our Flag and our National Anthem. Weak and out of control!”