By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Monday Night Football in Week 5 featured two underperforming (or just-plain-bad) NFL teams and posted the lowest overnight rating since ESPN acquired the rights to broadcast the show in 2006. The Week 6 contest between the Arizona Cardinals and New York Jets, somehow, performed even worse.
Bogged down by two underperforming teams (again) and an avalanche of penalty flags and commercials, MNF posted record-low ratings for the second straight week, registering a 6.3 overnight rating, according to Austin Karp of SportsBusiness Daily. It was a slight drop from 6.5 in the previous week’s game between the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but it was a drop nonetheless.
It doesn’t help that MNF was going up against Game 3 of the ALCS between the Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays, which featured one of the more bloody and bizarre incidents you’ll ever see. Ratings for that game have yet to be released, but a 6.3 for MNF has to be treading dangerously close to MLB’s total, which usually draws in a significantly lower audience than primetime NFL games.
Of course, there is still the segment of fans who have decided to stop watching the NFL altogether in the wake of players protesting the national anthem, which many mainstream media outlets continue to curiously ignore (save for a select few from Forbes and The Sporting News). But if you were one of the unfortunate viewers who did tune into Cardinals-Jets, you know that the games themselves are simply laborious to watch in the first place. Arizona and New York combined for a whopping 20 penalties in the game, which shockingly did not include any penalties for excessive celebrations, which are up sharply in 2016.
The NFL is sucking the life out of its own product, and it certainly didn’t help that it started politicizing the broadcasts either. Hundreds of fans have emailed me to declare that they are boycotting the NFL over the anthem protest movement started by the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick. The hashtag #BoycottNFL has been tweeted or retweeted about 1,500 times in just the past 24 hours, according to HashTracking.com. The boycotts are growing and having an effect on the ratings, as much as the league may want to deny it.
Nonetheless, MNF play-by-play announcer Sean McDonough is grabbing headlines on Tuesday for openly calling out the NFL on its own product during the broadcast, lamenting the over-officious nature of the referees in 2016 and the excessive penalty flags that are grinding the game to a halt. Add excessive commercials and a lack of parity, and you have a product that is virtually unwatchable for most games, even if you’re not tuning out over the anthem protests.
Whatever the league wants to shoehorn as the primary cause for its ratings problem, it’s clear that it is not going away anytime soon. There are many things the league may have to change in order to keep the ratings drop from becoming a permanent problem.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.