According to a report from CNN, the NFL’s three Thanksgiving Day games dropped about 20% in the ratings compared to last year:
The league’s three national holiday games dropped in viewership by a combined average of roughly 19% compared to last year’s ratings. Fox’s early afternoon game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Detroit Lions was down 10% in viewership from the early game on CBS last year; CBS’ late afternoon game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Los Angeles Chargers was down 25% from the afternoon game on Fox last year; and NBC’s prime time game between the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins was down 19%.
Even though the NFL commands a larger audience than most of TV, the ratings hit is eye-popping since Thanksgiving is a major holiday for the league and its broadcast partners. It’s also more ratings woes for a league that is already beset by two seasons of uneven numbers.
While President Trump would have you believe that the ratings drop is entirely due to anthem protests—and that does play into it—it’s actually a combination of factors that have led to ratings drops for America’s most popular televised sport on broadcast and cable TV. Sure, there are some viewers dissatisfied with players kneeling for the anthem. There are also two football markets who have lost their teams in the past two years—there aren’t a lot of St. Louis Rams or San Diego Chargers fans wasting time watching their teams play in front of half-empty stadiums in Los Angeles. People are more and more informed about the dangers of football and abandoning it for that reason. The owners are bleeding public money out of cities for stadiums. And, to top it all off, the play just isn’t that good.
That was especially the case on Thanksgiving Day, with the Cowboys-Chargers mid-day game especially unwatchable. The Giants-Redskins game was a little better, but those two teams are having seasons that are lackluster at best. What was once a showcase day for the NFL—who owned Thanksgiving the way the NBA now owns Christmas—is now just another Thursday featuring bad football games. And you can get those every day of the week.