Make no mistake, the NFL could care less if the younger crowd watches. If they did they would be doing everything in their power to reverse a trend that could threaten the existence of the league.
The last ten years have showed dramatic declines in viewership between the ages of 18 and 49. The age group between 18 and 24 has also declined. The numbers were prepared using the Nielson rating and presented by Horizon Media.
Social responsibility may have something to do with it. More and more younger audiences are watching as concussions and stories of abuse are plastered around the media.
The NFL has made headlines for some terrible things in the last few years including domestic violence, stealing from the players, and keeping money that should have been donated to breast cancer awareness. Football used to have an off season, too, giving people time to hear about other sports stories or at the very least give them a break from all things NFL. But the off season has vanished, replaced by Tom Brady going to a high court to talk about air, or lack thereof, inside of a football.
More and more fans are consuming football through different avenues other than traditional network television. The NFL is on Twitter and have, of course, ran so many promoted tweets that people have gotten sick of it there too.
— Day of the Eagle (@Nottinghams1) November 14, 2016
What the NFL is missing is subtlety and grace. They have never lost viewership and never had to contend with such a vast and quickly changing landscape in media. The younger viewer can smell out those promoted tweets and advertised Instagram posts and they are not much appreciated. It could be possible that the viewership numbers have been skewed due to social media and other apps that have allowed access to NFL games and it could be argued that the 18 – 24 crowd is watching, just not on network television. Or it could be that the sport has become out of touch with the younger generation and has done very little to reconnect with them. Exhibit A would be this year’s half time performer; Lady Gaga.
The folks calling the shots are heading where they think the most money is. The fifty plus crowd certainly purchases more and has more money to spend and they are still the largest group of people home on Sundays to watch network television. But the NFL needs to make a stronger push to pay attention to the next generation of consumers. It is entirely possible that in thirty years network television is gone. The NFL has made their mark entirely through network television and if it goes, then so would normally televised football games. It’s time for them to jump into the game and become proactive instead of reactive to gain more viewers. In thirty years maybe more and more people who didn’t get hooked early will have forgotten about football altogether.
Or maybe it’ll just be nice to have Sunday back.