Survey: Anthem protests top reason people watched fewer games last year

A new survey released by J.D. Power shows that the number-one reason some people watched less sports on TV was protests against the National Anthem.

ESPN:

The pollster said it asked more than 9,200 people who attended either one football, basketball or hockey game whether they tuned into fewer games and why. Twenty-six percent of those who watched fewer games last season said that national anthem protests, some of which were led by Colin Kaepernick, were the reason.

After that, 24 percent of those surveyed who said they watched fewer games said they did so either because of the league's off-the-field image issues with domestic violence or with game delays, including penalties.

One in five (20 percent) listed excessive commercials and advertising as a reason, something the NFL is seeking to address by moving around traditional ad blocks.

Sixteen percent said it was because of their interest being replaced by the 2016 presidential election coverage.

Five percent said they watched fewer games because they got rid of cable.

J.D. Power noted that only 12 percent of the fans it surveyed said they watched fewer NFL games last season, with 27 percent of people saying they watched more and 62 percent saying they watched just as much as they had the season before.

The NFL did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

NFL game viewership on networks that broadcast games was down an average of 8 percent for the 2016 regular season versus the season before. Before the election (Nov. 8), games for the first nine weeks were down 14 percent compared to 2015. The final eight weeks saw only a drop of 1 percent compared to Weeks 10-17 in 2015.

It is significant that the numbers dropped precipitously early in the season, when the anthem protests were big news, and then recovered toward the end of the year as attention to the protests waned.  It is also significant that fans are apparently getting tired of reading about athletes in trouble with the law, as the parade of sports figures being arrested for various crimes continues.

Overall, however, hardcore fans are unmoved by anthem protests or player misbehavior.  What hurts the league is the drop-off in "casual fans" who might tune in to a game occasionally.  Those fans appear to be affected by off-the-field issues far more than the NFL fan base, which is based on loyalty to specific teams.

Popularity of all broadcast sports is falling as people unplug from cable and satellite and switch to streaming services.  What is scaring the leagues and TV sports executives is that there doesn't appear to be a bottom to the trend, which means that eventually, there will be fewer sports contests and less money to go around.

A new survey released by J.D. Power shows that the number-one reason some people watched less sports on TV was protests against the National Anthem.

ESPN:

The pollster said it asked more than 9,200 people who attended either one football, basketball or hockey game whether they tuned into fewer games and why. Twenty-six percent of those who watched fewer games last season said that national anthem protests, some of which were led by Colin Kaepernick, were the reason.

After that, 24 percent of those surveyed who said they watched fewer games said they did so either because of the league's off-the-field image issues with domestic violence or with game delays, including penalties.

One in five (20 percent) listed excessive commercials and advertising as a reason, something the NFL is seeking to address by moving around traditional ad blocks.

Sixteen percent said it was because of their interest being replaced by the 2016 presidential election coverage.

Five percent said they watched fewer games because they got rid of cable.

J.D. Power noted that only 12 percent of the fans it surveyed said they watched fewer NFL games last season, with 27 percent of people saying they watched more and 62 percent saying they watched just as much as they had the season before.

The NFL did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

NFL game viewership on networks that broadcast games was down an average of 8 percent for the 2016 regular season versus the season before. Before the election (Nov. 8), games for the first nine weeks were down 14 percent compared to 2015. The final eight weeks saw only a drop of 1 percent compared to Weeks 10-17 in 2015.

It is significant that the numbers dropped precipitously early in the season, when the anthem protests were big news, and then recovered toward the end of the year as attention to the protests waned.  It is also significant that fans are apparently getting tired of reading about athletes in trouble with the law, as the parade of sports figures being arrested for various crimes continues.

Overall, however, hardcore fans are unmoved by anthem protests or player misbehavior.  What hurts the league is the drop-off in "casual fans" who might tune in to a game occasionally.  Those fans appear to be affected by off-the-field issues far more than the NFL fan base, which is based on loyalty to specific teams.

Popularity of all broadcast sports is falling as people unplug from cable and satellite and switch to streaming services.  What is scaring the leagues and TV sports executives is that there doesn't appear to be a bottom to the trend, which means that eventually, there will be fewer sports contests and less money to go around.

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