US networks look for ‘Brady Narrative’ to recover from lacklustre NFL audiences

US sports stakeholders have detailed concern regarding the drop in viewership of NFL broadcasts recorded during season 2017/18.

Last week, media analyst Nielsen released viewer trend data for the NFL’s 2017/18 regular season, which specified a network-wide viewership decline of 9.7%.

The lacklustre figures saw all US partner networks; NBC, ESPN and FOX Sports report audience declines for their NFL match programmes. Furthermore, NFL broadcasters are set to compensate advertisers for the audience shortfall witnessed during the regular season.

Further concerns were highlighted as NFL ‘Sunday Night Football’ broadcasts’ failed to break the target 20 million viewership mark, averaging 18.5 million in TV audiences.

Season 2017/18 has been marred by the ongoing feud between the Trump Administration and NFL athletes ‘take-a-knee’ protest of the national anthem, highlighting racial inequality within the US.

Whilst the ‘politicising of NFL games’, has had an impact with some older viewers switching off game broadcasts. NFL media analysts believe that season 2017/18’s disappointing returns, can be related to a number of factors.

‘Big draw’ teams such as the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants, have had disappointing seasons. Furthermore, a number of the league’s top athletes; JJ Watt, Odell Beckham and Aaron Rodgers have been blighted by injury.

During season 2017/18, media executives have highlighted the growing trend of ‘ubiquitous sports audiences’ preferring to consume NFL highlight or catch-up content through multiple verticals (TV, mobile, desktop etc…). For NFL stakeholders it appears that younger audiences are less inclined to spend a whole Sunday viewing football on TV.

The NFL now enters a vital play-off period, in which it will seek to recover audiences prior to Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis, Minnesota,  (Sunday 4 February 2018).

Following a season of conflict, the NFL is in dire need of a hero to deliver an uplifting story. Entering the playoffs, all eyes will be placed on New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady who is gunning for his Sixth Super Bowl title.

Should Brady succeed, he will become unequivocally the best ever NFL player, however, doubt lingers on whether even ‘Tom Terrific’ can return NFL audience figures to past glories.

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