The NFL - suffering from dismal ratings for last week's opening game and Sunday Night Football, may be in for a serious decline in viewers this season if Dallas local TV ratings are any indicator - after the Cowboys registered their lowest local ratings since 2009.
The @dallascowboys DFW rating of 28.2 for loss to Panthers lowest opener number since 2009’s 25.2 for Bucs.— Barry Horn (@bhorn55) September 12, 2018
the Dallas market is an important market for one of the most watched teams in the country. There is a reason the Cowboys are valued at over $4 billion dollars. They absolutely own Dallas Fort-Worth. Nothing else really matters.
The NFL does not want to see one of it’s most important market losing fans. It’s not a good look. It’s cause for concern. -Touchdownwire
That said, some have pointed out that the cowboys are "boring" now...
No one should be surprised. The Cowboys, while still a compelling aspect of the overall fabric of the NFL, have become a somewhat boring team, with a Salisbury-steak-and-lumpy-spuds offense that features two stars, a diminished offensive line, and a collection of No. 2 and No. 3 receivers. -Profootballtalk
Less viewers, more money
Despite a steady decline in viewership over the last three years, advertising revenues have continued to climb.
“Everyone loves to focus on the ratings, and everyone loves to focus on the NFL because it is the biggest ratings on television,” said Brian Rolapp, the league’s head of media. “But the reality is: Historically, the ratings of the NFL have always gone up, they’ve just never gone up in a straight line.”
With ratings for regular-season games having fallen 17% over the past two years according to Nielsen, and youth participation in tackle football declined nearly 22% since 2012, Smith College Econ professor Andrew Zimbalist thinks "The NFL probably peaked two years ago," adding "It's basically treading water."
Yet even a middling franchise, the Carolina Panthers, sold in May for a league record $2.3 billion. Advertisers spent a record $4.6 billion for spots during NFL games last season, as well as an all-time high $5.24 million per 30 seconds of Super Bowl time. The reason is clear: In 2017, 37 of the top 50 broadcasts on U.S. television were NFL games, including four of the top five.
The Green Bay Packers, the only NFL team that shares financial statements with the public, has posted revenue increases for 15 straight seasons. Leaguewide revenue has grown more than 47 percent since 2012. Commissioner Roger Goodell’s official target is $25 billion in revenue by 2027, or roughly 6 percent annual growth. -Bloomberg
That said, the future of the NFL's advertising model may be on shaky footing - as their three-hour blocks of big-screen television run counter to the shorter formats, smaller screens and zero interruption format consumers have been gravitating towards.
“If I’m sitting at the NFL, I'm certainly getting nervous about the future of broadcast TV,” says BTIG media analyst Rich Greenfield.
That said, the NFL's Rolapp doesn't seem too concerned. “The fundamental rule in media is money always follows consumption,” says Rolapp. “If you have the consumption, figuring out how to make money off it is not the hard part.”