The Super Bowl ratings are in, and it turns out they’re the lowest they’ve been in eight years. And in what could spell bad news for the National Football League, some analysts say a conservative boycott over the league’s handling of players kneeling for the national anthem may have played a role.
As Fox News reports, the final numbers for the Super Bowl ratings were released by NBC on Monday afternoon — it took so long because compiling TV ratings is a careful and exacting process that can’t be done in real time. All things considered, the broadcast brought in around 103.4 million viewers. That’s an eight-year low, and it’s a good 3 million viewers down from the next-lowest Super Bowl in recent memory, 2010’s (106.5 million). Last year’s Super Bowl, by way of comparison, brought in 111.3 million viewers.
By almost every measure, according to Forbes, Super Bowl LII was a thrilling game from start to finish, and probably one of the best Super Bowls ever. So why are the ratings down so much?
The answer to that probably depends on a host of factors (more on that in a few paragraphs), but Fox News is quick to point out that several conservatives had been calling for a boycott of the game on social media. Specifically, they’re upset about the NFL’s handling of players not standing for the national anthem, and to a lesser extent, the NFL’s refusal to accept an ad from a veterans’ group titled “Please Stand.”
Proud to be one of millions who will NOT be watching the #SuperBowl and who will be contributing to all-time low ratings!
— David Wohl (@DavidWohl) February 4, 2018
It’s not just the Super Bowl: the NFL’s ratings have been dropping for the past couple of years. Coincidentally or not, it was also a couple of years ago (2016, to be specific), that then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the trend of NFL players not standing for the national anthem.
Super Bowl’s TV audience tumbled 7.1% from last year, marking the least-watched championship since 2009 https://t.co/hDaMTsuFPa
— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) February 6, 2018
The NFL, for its part, has refused to institute a policy requiring players to stand for the national anthem, as the New York Post reported back in October 2017.
However, as Yahoo Sports reports, the national anthem controversy may not be the only thing turning viewers away from the NFL. There’s also cord-cutting (that is, ditching cable or satellite TV in favor of internet-based means of watching), concerns about concussions, and concerns about over-saturation of the game.
What’s more, says Yahoo Sports writer Liz Roscher, a 3 percent drop in Super Bowl ratings hardly spells doom for either the NFL or the big game itself.