The NFL is blaming its horrible ratings on the election

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The NFL is blaming its horrible TV ratings on the election, according to a leaked memo to team owners obtained by the Wall Street Journal.

Every single one of the NFL's primetime offerings (Sunday, Monday, and Thursday Night Football) is down double-digits, according to Sports Illustrated. Overall, NFL viewership is down 11% this year.

The NFL wrote that the drop in primetime was likely because of "unprecedented interest in the Presidential election." The letter went on to reference the 2000 election as another period of time when NFL ratings went down.

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The NFL is not the only one to make the connection. In an interview with Sports Business Daily, Mike Mulvihill, a senior VP at Fox Sports, said the current season reminded him of fall of 2000, a year which included the race between Al Gore and George W. Bush. 2000 was the only year during the decade 2000-2010 where the NFL saw a downtick overall, Sports Illustrated notes.

One thing the NFL said was not affecting ratings was fan backlash against players protesting police brutality by not standing during the national anthem. "In fact, our own data shows that the perception of the NFL and its players is actually up in 2016," the NFL wrote.

Alternative theories

There are a few other theories on what might be affecting ratings this year, however, that have nothing to do with Donald Trump.

In a meeting with analysts at Pacific Crest, CBS, one of the NFL's TV partners, cited three reasons:

  • Small sample sizes (there haven't been enough games yet)
  • Injuries
  • Unfavorable matchups (for instance, NBC's last "Sunday Night Football" had a Steelers-Chiefs matchup that was down 26% from last year, but last year's game was Saints-Cowboys, and the Cowboys are the NFL's biggest TV draw)

Lastly, there is a far more troubling explanation: people are losing gradually losing interest in live sports, and big TV "spectacles" in general.

NBC had a disastrous TV showing at the Olympics, which saw a sharp viewership dip for the first time since 2000. NBC's Olympics primetime broadcast was down 15% versus 2012. The damage was even greater among younger people. Among 18- to 49-year-olds, there was a 25% drop for the bulk of the games, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.

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Week 5 Power Rankings:

NFL Power Rankings: Week 5
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NFL Power Rankings: Week 5

32. Browns (0-4)
Last Week: 31

After a one-week vacation in the No. 31 spot, the Browns are once again the worst team in football. Sorry, Cleveland -- at least you have the Indians!

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

31. Chargers (1-3)
Last Week: 28

Somebody was eventually going to lose to Drew Brees' Saints, and that somebody was San Diego, at home, in Week 4. The one-point loss cost the Chargers a chance at evening up their record at 2-2, and they now head to Oakland to face the best Raiders team in a decade.

(AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

30. Dolphins (1-3)
Last Week: 26

After narrowly defeating the Browns in Week 3, Miami faltered on national television Thursday night in Cincy. Ryan Tannehill's performance was especially concerning, as the 28-year-old still hasn't found a way to turn the corner as a pro.

(Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)

29. Bears (1-3)
Last Week: 32

Chicago managed to escape the cellar in our rankings with a home win over Detroit, thanks to Brian Hoyer's second-straight 30-yard, two-score day. Maybe they've found their quarterback of the future?

(Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)

28. 49ers (1-3)
Last Week: 27

Remember when the Niners shut out Los Angeles in the first game of the season? It seems like years ago. LA hasn't lost since, while San Francisco hasn't beaten anybody else -- and Colin Kaepernick's return to the starting lineup may be eminent.

(Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

27. Saints (1-3)
Last Week: 29

New Orleans finally got its first win of the season in Week 4, although it was against a weak San Diego team. Still, a win's a win, as they head into their bye week.

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

26. Lions (1-3)
Last Week: 21

Previously winless, the Bears handled Detroit in Week 4, limiting the Lions' offense -- which doesn't bode well for Detroit as they head into a bout against a surprising Philly team that still has everything to prove.

(Photo by Daniel Bartel/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

25. Jaguars (1-3)
Last Week: 30

The Jaguars showed a tiny glimpse of what was expected of them before the season started, knocking off the Colts in London on Sunday. But after digging themselves in an 0-3 hole, they'll need to repeat it a few more times -- particularly against defenses better than Indy's -- until we show any get any sort of confidence in them.

(AP Photo/Tim Ireland)

24. Buccaneers (1-3)
Last Week: 24

Tampa faced a daunting task in competing with undefeated Denver, and they weren't up to it. A trendy playoff pick in the offseason, the Bucs now sit at 1-3, and still haven't been able to hold an opponent under 24 points.

(Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

23. Titans (1-3)
Last Week: 23

Tennessee actually hung in with Houston on Sunday, falling by just a touchdown to one of the stronger teams in the league -- albeit without J.J. Watt. DeMarco Murray continues to be a bright point of the Titans' season, but there's just not that much talent to work with on either side of the ball.

(Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)

22. Jets (1-3)
Last Week: 18

Ryan Fitzpatrick played poorly yet again versus Seattle, and it may not be long before the coaching staff is pressured to turn to -- gasp! -- Geno Smith.

(Photo by Dennis Schneidler/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

21. Colts (1-3)
Last Week: 19

It's officially time to worry in Indy. After a loss to previously winless Jacksonville, the Colts are 1-3 with no sign of defensive talent and a shoddy offensive line. A loss next week in Chicago would almost surely cost Chuck Pagano his job.

(Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)

20. Giants (2-2)
Last Week: 16

Don't look now, but New York's defense looked awfully reminiscent of last year's nightmare -- despite the pricy free-agent additions. That, combined with a shut-down Odell Beckham, led to a Week 4 loss in Minny. Even more concerning: Does OBJ have the composure to maintain success? Or have teams figured him out?

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

19. Redskins (2-2)
Last Week: 20

Washington evened up its record with a win over Cleveland, with running back Matt Jones carrying the offense on the ground, totaling 117 yards and a score. Kirk Cousins still isn't accomplishing much through the air, which, as we enter Week 5, is a concern.

(Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

18. Bills (2-2)
Last Week: 25

Maybe the Bills aren't that bad? In back-to-back weeks after starting 0-2, Buffalo has beaten Arizona at home and New England on the road. Their schedule is filled with beatable opponents until a Week 8 rematch with the Patriots in Orchard Park, which could be an intriguing matchup depending on how the Bills fair in the interim.

(Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

17. Panthers (1-3)
Last Week: 8

After dropping a critical divisional matchup to the Falcons in Week 4, Carolina dropped to 1-3 and entered a three-way tie for last place in the NFC South -- two games behind Atlanta. With Cam Newton in concussion protocol this week, another game against a division rival -- Tampa on Monday night -- could be up for grabs.

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

16. Cardinals (1-3)
Last Week: 10

Carson Palmer is ruled out for this Thursday's matchup against the 49ers, and considering how Arizona has played of late, that one could go either way.

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

15. Rams (3-1)
Last Week: 22

After three straight wins, the Los Angeles Rams are in first place in the NFC West. Week 4 was their most impressive performance to date, stunning the Cardinals in Arizona -- and the team can now rest comfortably during its bye week.

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

14. Ravens (3-1)
Last Week: 11

The Ravens suffered their first loss of the season in Week 4, against their first tough opponent of the season. They'll be going up against some more run-of-the-mill NFC East units in the coming weeks, giving them a chance to better their record even further.

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

13. Bengals (2-2)
Last Week: 14

With two wins against AFC East teams, and two losses to stronger units, the Bengals sit at 2-2 and still mostly unproven. A matchup in Dallas this week should help set the record straight on this bunch.

(Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)

12. Raiders (3-1)
Last Week: 15

It's been more than a decade since the Raiders started a season better than 2-2, but here we are. On both sides of the ball, Oakland looks formidable -- and Amari Cooper hasn't begun to dominate yet.

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

11. Cowboys (3-1)
Last Week: 13

Surprisingly, the Cowboys haven't missed a beat without Tony Romo. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott have the offense firing on most cylinders, if not all. They're a shade off Philly's pace for the division lead, but Dallas fans have got to be pleased with how 2016 has opened up.

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

10. Chiefs (2-2)
Last Week: 7

Kansas City followed up a dominant home win against the Jets with a stinker at Heinz Field, Jamaal Charles is slowly returning from injury, though he carried the ball just twice in the loss. The jury's still out on the Chiefs as they enter their bye.

(Photo by Mark Alberti/ Icon Sportswire)

9. Falcons (3-1)
Last Week: 17

Stringing together a few impressive victories, Atlanta is all alone at the top of the NFC South. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are looking like the most dangerous combination in the league, while the rest of the division sits at 1-3.

(AP Photo/Butch Dill)

8. Texans (3-1)
Last Week: 12

The Texans bounced back from an embarrassing, nationally televised loss to New England with a home victory in Week 4 against Tennessee. Will Fuller did the heavy lifting on this occasion, and despite DeAndre Hopkins' quiet afternoon, Houston should be encouraged knowing there's another wideout option capable of shouldering the load.

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

7. Eagles (3-0)
Last Week: 9

Idle in Week 4, Philly now faces the tough task of playing 13 straight weeks, though with the NFC East lead in hand. Dallas lurks just a game behind -- can Carson Wentz really keep it up over a full season?

(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

6. Packers (2-1)
Last Week: 3

Unfair to slide back three weeks without playing? Maybe. But Green Bay will have a chance to move back up this week with a primetime matchup against the Giants.

(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

5. Seahawks (3-1)
Last Week: 6

Seattle handily defeated the Jets away from Seattle, even with a banged-up Russell Wilson. An important development: Jimmy Graham again looks to be a viable option in the offense, logging 100 yards in each of his last two games.

(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

5. Seahawks (3-1)
Last Week: 6

Pittsburgh rebounded from a brutal loss to Philadelphia by unleashing an all-out offensive attack on the Chiefs defense -- Ben Roethlisberger slung five touchdowns through the air while Le'Veon Bell ran for eight yards per carry, totaling 144 yards, in his first game of the season.

(Shane Keyser/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images)

3. Vikings (4-0)
Last Week: 4

One of just two undefeated teams remaining, Minnesota was in control the entire way against the Giants on Monday night. Jerick McKinnon served as a suitable full-in for Adrian Peterson while Sam Bradford cleanly led the Vikings from wire to wire. Of course, it was their defense that led the way, holding Odell Beckham to 23 yards and kept Eli Manning without a touchdown.

(AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

2. Patriots (3-1)
Last Week: 1

The Patriots suffered a rare bad loss in Week 4, but with Tom Brady returning for this week's tilt against Cleveland, it's not unreasonable to expect 2007-style video game numbers from this New England offense the rest of the way.

(Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

1. Broncos (4-0)
Last Week: 2

With the Patriots dropping off the list of undefeateds, Denver is next in line to bump into the No. 1 spot. No matter who's under center, the Broncos seem fit to compete with any team put in front of them -- and the red-hot Falcons will be another good test in Week 5.​​​​​​​

(Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)


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