NFL ratings take another steep drop

NFL games remain among the most watched programming on television, but ratings took another significant dip during the 2017 regular season.

The average audience was 14.9 million viewers per game, down 9.7% from 16.5 million viewers in the 2016 regular season, according to Nielsen. The 2016 viewership was down 8% from the previous year.

The decline in ratings meant the networks had to offer make-goods to advertisers in order to compensate for the smaller audiences, a network executive told the Los Angeles Times.

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Top-selling NFL jerseys over 2017 NFL offseason
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Top-selling NFL jerseys over 2017 NFL offseason

25. Cam Newton

(Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)

24. Drew Brees

(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

23. Ben Roethlisberger

(Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

22. Matt Ryan

(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

21. Russell Wilson

(Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

20. Landon Collins

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

19. James Conner

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

18. Jason Witten

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

17. Dez Bryant

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

16. Von Miller

(Photo by Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

15. Julian Edelman

(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

14. Deshaun Watson

(Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

13. Julio Jones

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

12. Matthew Stafford

(Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

11. Rob Gronkowski

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

10. Antonio Brown

(Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

9. Khalil Mack

(Photo by Stephen Hopson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

8. Aaron Rodgers

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

7. Carson Wentz

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

6. Odell Beckham Jr. 

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

5. Derek Carr

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

4. Ezekiel Elliott

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

3. Dak Prescott

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

2. Marshawn Lynch

(Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images)

1. Tom Brady

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

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Despite the drop in viewership, 20 of the 30 highest-rated shows and 37 of 50 on television in 2017 were pro football games, and both NBC and ESPN had the most-watched shows every week of the season in terms of total audience and in all key male demographics.

The NFL's Red Zone cable channel, which takes viewers to different games whenever there is a scoring opportunity, drew an estimated 1 million weekly viewers, pulling fans away from their local games on CBS and Fox.

NBC's "NFL Sunday Night Football" was the most-watched program in prime time, with 18.2 million viewers this past season. That figure is down from 20.3 million viewers in 2016 and 22.5 million in 2015.

NBC, CBS, Fox and ESPN pay more than $1 billion a year apiece for NFL TV rights, with ESPN spending the most -- $1.9 billion for "Monday Night Football."

Changing viewing habits are frequently cited as a reason for the falling ratings. Others have pointed to anger over player protests during the national anthem, a string of injuries to high-profile players such as Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the anemic performances of large-market teams and a series of lackluster Thursday games.

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Colin Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick, pictured here with Eric Reid (#35), began protesting in 2016. Read on to see the players, coaches, team owners and more who have joined the protest. 

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

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jacksonville Jaguars showed solidarity during the first game after Trump's speech urging fans to boycott games where anyone protested during the national anthem. 

According to ESPN the following players took a knee during the national anthem: Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye, Calais Campbell, Malik Jackson, Tashaun Gipson, Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler.

 Reuters/Paul Childs

Baltimore Ravens

Ravens players also made a statement during the Ravens-Jaguars games. 

According to ESPN the following players protested: Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley, Tim Williams, Tyus Bowser, Za’Darius Smith, Mike Wallace, Carl Davis, Tony Jefferson, Anthony Levine and Lardarius Webb.

(Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 24: Denver Broncos team take a knee during the national anthem during their game against the Buffalo Bills on September 24, 2017 at New Era Field in Orchard Park, NY. (Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 18: (L-R) Ereck Flowers #74, Robert Thomas #99, Damon Harrison #98 and Dalvin Tomlinson #94 of the New York Giants wait to take the field prior to their game against the Detroit Lions at MetLife Stadium on September 18, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 10: Malcolm Jenkins #27 of the Philadelphia Eagles raises his fist as he stands during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on September 10, 2017 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 24: Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (97) and Atlanta Falcons tackle Dontari Poe (92) kneel during the playing of the national anthem prior to the start of the game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Detroit Lions on September 24, 2017 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Sep 24, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin (44) middle linebacker Tahir Whitehead (59) running back Ameer Abdullah (21) outside linebacker Steve Longa (54) defensive end Jeremiah Ledbetter (98) defensive end Armonty Bryant (97) defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson (91) and defensive end Cornelius Washington (90) kneel during the national anthem before the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; The Cleveland Browns team stand and kneel during the National Anthem before the start of their game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 24: Members of the Indianapolis Colts stand and kneel for the national anthem prior to the start of the game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Cleveland Browns at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 24, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 24: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Wide Receivers Mike Evans #13, and DeSean Jackson #11, take a knee during the national anthem before the game against the Minnesota Vikings on September 24, 2017 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Sep 24, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; The Houston Texans stand during the national anthem before a game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
FOXBOROUGH, MA - SEPTEMBER 24: New England Patriots players take a knee during the national anthem before the start of a game against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., Sept. 24, 2017. (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
September 24, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets players lock arms during the national anthem before the game against the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Charlotte, NC, USA; New Orleans Saints players sit during the national anthem at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 24: Laremy Tunsil #67, Maurice Smith #27 and Julius Thomas #89 kneel with Jarvis Landry #14 of the Miami Dolphins during the National Anthem prior to an NFL game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on September 24, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 24: Buffalo Bills players kneel during the American National anthem before an NFL game against the Denver Broncos on September 24, 2017 at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 24: Tight end Lee Smith #86 of the Oakland Raiders stands as other members of the Raiders sit during the playing of the national anthem before the start of their game against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on September 24, 2017 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Sep 24, 2017; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins tight end Niles Paul (84) and linebacker Ryan Anderson (52) and Washington Redskins linebacker Chris Carter (55) kneel with teammates during the playing of the national anthem before the game between the Washington Redskins and the Oakland Raiders at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 24: Alejandro Villanueva #78 of the Pittsburgh Steelers stands by himself in the team's tunnel during the national anthem prior to a game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on September 24, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. Villanueva, a former Army Ranger who served terms in Afghanistan, was the lone Steeler to appear during the anthem. The Bears won 23-17 in overtime. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 24: The colorguard presents the American Flag as the bench of the Tennessee Titans remains empty during the national anthem prior to a game between the Tennessee Titans and the Seattle Seahawks at Nissan Stadium on September 24, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 24: Members of the Cincinnati Bengals stand with arms locked as a sign of unity during the national anthem prior to their game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on September 24, 2017 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 24: The Green Bay Packers stand in solidarity during the national anthem prior to a game between the Green Bay Packers and the Cincinnati Bengals at Lambeau Field on September 24, 2017 in Green Bay, WI. (Photo by Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
CARSON, CA - SEPTEMBER 24: The Los Angeles Chargers are seen during national anthem before the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at the StubHub Center on September 24, 2017 in Carson, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
CARSON, CA - SEPTEMBER 24: Justin Houston #50 of the Kansas City Chiefs is seen taking a knee during the National Anthem before the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at the StubHub Center on September 24, 2017 in Carson, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Bruce Maxwell of the Oakland Athletics kneels during the singing of the National Anthem before his MLB American League baseball game against the Seattle Mariners at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California, U.S., September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Jun 12, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) celebrates after defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers in game five of the 2017 NBA Finals at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 1, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh yells to his team during the second half against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. The Ravens won the game, 23-20 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 31: Head Coach Doug Marrone of the Jacksonville Jaguars during a preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on August 31, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. Jaguars defeated the Falcons 13 to 7. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
Aug 19, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell during the first quarter against the New York Jets at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 04: Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors speaks at a press conference prior to Game 2 of the 2017 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 4, 2017 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
September 24, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets players and coaching staff lock arms during the national anthem before the game against the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 10: Head coach Sean McDermott of the Buffalo Bills looks on before a game against the New York Jets on September 10, 2017 at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
NFL Football - Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 24, 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan links arms with players during the national anthems before the match Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs
KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 17: Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie before a week 2 NFL game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs on September 17th, 2017 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 23: Detroit Lions owners Martha Ford on the sidelines prior to the start of the game against the Washington Redskins at Ford Field on October 23, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Sep 24, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive back Harrison Smith (22) locks arms with general manager Rick Spielman (left) and owner Mark Wilf (middle) and owner Ziggy Wilf (right) before the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 024: Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank joins arms with his players during the playing of the national anthem prior to the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on September 24, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 24: Jermaine Kearse #10, Josh McCown #15, Christopher Johnson and Jamal Adams #33 of the New York Jets stand in unison with their team during the National Anthem prior to an NFL game against the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium on September 24, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 24: Miami Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross and Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase locks arms with Miami Dolphins players during the National Anthem prior to the National Football League game between the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins on September 24, 2017, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Sep 24, 2017; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder stands with cornerback Josh Norman (24) and cornerback Bashaud Breeland (26) during the playing of the national anthem before the game between the Washington Redskins and the Oakland Raiders at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
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