By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — The NFL continues to have a ratings problem, even as the league barrels toward the second half of the season and coverage of the presidential election is winding down ahead of Election Day. Monday Night Football once again took a ratings tumble year-over-year, as the Vikings-Bears Halloween matchup drew a 7.2 overnight rating, which is down 18 percent from Colts-Panthers in Week 8 of 2015 (8.8), according to Austin Karp of SportsBusiness Daily.

Sunday Night Football took a big hit as well, losing to Game 5 of the World Series in the Oct. 30 ratings battle by a margin of 15.3 to 11.6. It was the first time since 2011 that the World Series beat SNF in a direct ratings competition. The two programs also went up against each other in 2015, but the World Series-clinching win by the Kansas City Royals on Nov. 1, 2015 lost out to Broncos-Packers on SNF that night.

There’s no doubt that the 2016 World Series has some extra juice to it, as the Chicago Cubs have a chance to win their first World Series since 1908 while the Cleveland Indians have a chance to end their own 68-year drought. But even playoff baseball historically loses out to regular-season NFL games in primetime, which makes the World Series’ victory over the NFL striking.

The NFL has faced a flurry of negative off-field stories in recent years, including domestic violence and DeflateGate. Most recently, the national anthem protests led by Colin Kaepernick have sparked a backlash whose true size is relatively unknown. Domestic violence is also an off-field issue with baseball players, but a backlash to national anthem protests (and, obviously, DeflateGate) are problems that only exist in football.

Perhaps the piled-up bad publicity is finally catching up to the NFL – but it’s still not that simple.

SEE ALSO: Arrogance, Deceit, Oversaturation At Root Of NFL’s Ratings Decline

The actual games and the broadcasts also have lost appeal. The endless penalty flags and commercials have also turned off viewers, as has the actual competition. The Vikings are a good team, but the Bears are dreadful and are led by one of the least likable players in the league in Jay Cutler. Whether it’s the coverage of undesirable topics or the actual play on the field, the NFL has become significantly less watchable.

It’s even more complicated for ESPN, which has seen a precipitous drop in TV subscribers in recent months. Neilsen recently reported that the network had lost over 620,000 subscribers in just the past month, but the ratings measurement giant recently retracted the estimated numbers to investigate their accuracy after Disney execs strongly disputed them, according to Variety. The network has reportedly lost over 11 million subscribers since 2011, which is almost certainly at least a partial result of “cord-cutting” by younger viewers ditching traditional cable.

There are a large number of problems affecting primetime football, and now it’s losing out to on-field products that it routinely beats when put up against them. It’s hard to blame election coverage when baseball’s ratings have improved and even the NBA’s opening night saw a 10 percent improvement over last season.

Primetime football is no longer the most watchable product in fall sports. There may be too many issues to make the NFL’s ratings problem an “easy fix,” but the problem still exists, and it’s likely not going to magically disappear after the election.

Matt Dolloff is a writer for 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

Comments (108)

    1. Bob Finger says:

      Yep I’m boycotting the NFL (after 50+ years) because of Goodell. He needs to go. And the players’ disrespect of the National Anthem. Fix those two things and then I will start watching again.

    2. Nomen Fictus says:

      Aren’t these the same guys who where threatening to boycott some states over their marriage laws? I guess they don’t like it when they are one the receiving end… Poetic justice.

    3. Mike Altman says:

      All the guys I know stopped watching because of Colon (ectomy) Kooperstupid disrespecting all of us. Uhhhh, whats hard of the NFL to figure that out!!??

      1. rgquinn says:

        Wrong narrative, you haters. It’s not really about a racyiss boycott. It’s about…other things. Stop spreading your hateful hate.

  2. The elephant in the NFL stadiums is the players protest against the National Anthem

  3. Dave Allen says:

    Who wants to watch DNC football.
    I don’t want my sport politicized!
    The liberals what run the NFL are to stupid to figure it that out!

    1. tngilmer says:

      I cannot decide if the owners in the NFL are so out of touch that they do not understand it or are just so rich that they no longer care what the ticket buyers and viewers think.

  4. rgentrell says:

    get rid of the SJW

    it really IS that simple

  5. Everyone knows why, except the NWO and their stooges won’t print it.

  6. You can thank Colon Kaepernick…

  7. The NFL is simply too PC. Plus eSECpn is, after all, just a subsidiary in the Disney world of fantasy .

  8. jsolbakken says:

    I think all the reasons stated in this story apply, but that the straw that broke the NFL camel’s back was Colon Kaeperinick. If you’re already feeling like the flags and fluff are getting tedious and annoying, when Colon and his anti-American antics came along, it pushed a critical mass of the pro football audience over the edge and into the arms of some pretty good baseball and basketball alternatives. I’m rooting for the Cubbies myself, because after a hundred years they need it more than the Cleveland Indians.

  9. Mat Helm says:

    It’s called a boycott…

  10. Stopped watching the NFL because of the disrespect for our country. Don’t miss it. Lost 7 pounds so far because I run now and gave up beer.

    1. jkozuh says:

      Message for Kaepernick and Goodell:

      Blacks are only 13% of the US population, but commit 65% of the VIOLENT CRIMES in America:

      When is the mainstream-media going to expose this NATIONAL EMERGENCY … ???

      1. You prob. shouldn’t go there – unspeakable truth, and they’ll (media) lazily respond with “you a racist!” It’ll eventually dawn on them. . . maybe a year after the election, deflate gate, commissioner lays low, etc, and the ratings are still down

  11. Who wants to watch a sport where some of the players and Commissioner Goodell are flipping you the bird?

    Not me. Lots of other things I could be watching…

  12. Dusty Rhodes says:

    Was there a football game last night? Who didn’t stand for the national anthem this time?

  13. David James says:

    I stopped watching because of that disrespectful nappy-headed fella

  14. Rob Howard says:

    When the NFL players stop taking a knee during the National Anthem and disrespecting our Nation and military, I’ll start watching again. #boycottNFL

  15. Bill Heath says:

    I believe the Kaepernick-led shenanigan is the single biggest reason for the NFL fade. But also, excessive political correctness overall and at ESPN in particular are factors., e.g. firing Curt Shilling, etc. Leagues, NCAA and networks are cutting off their noses to spite their faces.

  16. Kurt Smith says:

    too bad NFL…I took a knee. 8 weeks NFL-free now.

  17. The anthem protests have made me so angry I watch baseball now.

  18. Kaepernick is simply a symptom of a much larger issue. It’s 24/7 political correctness on all the sports shows, it’s the feminization of the NFL – traditionally a masculine sport, the overhyping of games and players who nowadays act more like “divas” then men of integrity.

  19. John D Hull says:

    They can keep denying it, but Kaepernick’s shenanigans, and the way it has trickled down, was indeed the final nail in the NFL’s coffin for me. Many other reasons I no longer watch, but that IS the top reason why, make NO mistake about it liberal media…

  20. Black Lives is not just a criminals’ lobby, it is also Islamofascist. Remember how the original Black Panthers, when they launched their shooting war against the police in the 1960s, all converted to Islam and took Arabic names? The New Black Panthers are the same Nation Of Islam trash, and so is Black Lives. When the NFL sides with the Black Lives Matter criminals’ lobby it is actually siding with al Qaeda and ISIS. I’m not just not-interested in the NFL anymore, I REFUSE to watch.

    NOI is America’s “Black Muslim” sect of Islam. It takes the Islamic law of hate (that Muslims are supposed to love each other but hate non-Muslims, Koran verse 48.29) and gives it a racial twist. “Black Muslims” are supposed to love each other but hate white people. That’s why they murdered Malcom X. He came back from Mecca trying to inform Black Muslims that according to REAL Islam Muslims are only supposed to hate non-Muslims. “We are not supposed to hate white people.” So they shot him.

    THAT is BLM. They side with blacks who are committing attempted murder (Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, etcetera) over the people they are trying to murder, purely on the basis of race. Racial sympathy for murder. As purely racist as it is possible to be. Who else sides with the murderer over their victim? That’s today’s NFL.

  21. I haven’t heard of any players kneeling during the National Anthem during the World Series. Maybe that has something to do with more people watching Baseball.

  22. Roger Godell thought that the NFL was not subject to falling ratings and he was careless and arrogant in how he handled issues that impact the image of the players, ownership and the league itself. Attacking fairness and due process (Deflategate), blindly attacking the best QB in NFL history, mishandling off the field issues with players and the ridiculous amount of commercials during the game. Good luck Roger!

  23. Ken McPhail says:

    Colon Kaeperinick you dumb-a**es….no respect for our flag, no respect or viewers for NFL games….plain and simple…….I should say ex-fans can outlast all you people in the head office. CLEAN OUT THE TRASH OR LOCK THE DOORS.

  24. How many article have been about this and how many thousands of comments have said the same thing? Get rid of the politicking and protesting!!!!!! Are this authors really that daft? RTFC!

  25. chrismaya says:

    Personally, I am disappointed by the following…
    1.) The Colin Kaepernick disrespect for the flag as a means of “protest.”
    2.) Analysts who pretend that there BLM protests have “valid points.”
    3.) The “politically correct” means by which ESPN controls speech.
    4.) The NFL’s penalty to Tom Brady without definitive evidence of wrongdoing.
    5.) Ties (at least end it with a field goal battle until one team misses).
    6.) Soaring retail prices, ticket prices and even concession prices at games.
    7.) Players beating girlfriends, wives, etc.
    8.) Players on drugs.
    9.) Politicizing of players at press conferences (e.g., Tom Brady and Trump cap, BLM, etc.).
    10.) A salary cap that has produced little parity in terms of power teams in the NFL.

  26. I was already a little tired of football. The ungrateful and tragically oppressed black multi-millionaire Kapernick put the cherry on it. Sports is supposed to be a refuge.

  27. I am a sports fan, period! I even watch sailing, golf, horse racing, and hockey. I listen to projections before the games, wrap ups after the games, and high school football games in the car. Basketball bores me; too many games. Football is my number one and baseball is my number two favorite sport. HOWEVER, on Sunday night, I tuned into the baseball game.

    WHY? I don’t relish watching guys “adjust themselves” but it sure beats the heck out of those FOOTBALL FOOLS who disrespect our flag, our military, our police, fire, EMT’s, and our history. I HATE Colon Kaepernick; he is SO STUPID he doesn’t even know what is really going on; he is a TOOL for the communists. What a FOOL!

  28. Robb Tipton says:

    Sports fans don’t want ESPN’s multi-cultural nonsense full of political innuendo. Just call the games and concentrate on what’s going on on the field, or it will get worse. We don’t need your sick awards shows either.

  29. Tom Dean says:

    My wife and I own season tickets to the SF 49ers as do my wife’s sister and her husband. My family has attended every home 49ers game since the late 1950s (my parents first bought the season tickets and handed them down to me) – until this year.

    We made a choice not to attend or watch or support the 49ers and the NFL unless and until the NFL ceases enabling the anti-American protests by Kaepernick and others.

    I fully support Kaepernick’s right to peaceful protest. Period. No question. I do not agree with his protest as I believe it is based on ignorance and propaganda. But that’s not the issue.

    The issue is that Kaepernick’s protest against the US flag/anthem is being conducted on NFL company time and as such it is not a 1st Amendment protest, it is a protest codified/enabled by the an NFL employee – and so a protest by the NFL itself.

    Kaepernick’s protest *is* the NFL’s protest. NFL’s/Kaepernick’s protests are also the protests of the sponsors of the NFL.

    Taking a knee is during the anthem is disrespectful to the very idea of America. Our flag/anthem are symbols of the idea of America and our ideals as Americans. The idea of America that is symbolized by our flag and anthem is, at essence, the idea that we are a nation of self-governing, free People.

    That is what Kapernick and the NFL are protesting against when they “take a knee”.

    The NFL apparently want does not want a free nation, but a nation controlled by a totalitarian government (the opposite of the idea of America) that operates using PC-Think, the same cancer of the mind and soule that is destroying freedom, liberty and critical-thinking in government, media, college campuses and corporate HR offices nation wide.

    That is what Kaepernick, the NFL and their ilk are supporting by “taking a knee” and enabling that show of disrespect. That is why the NFL ratings are tanking. That is why ESPN, who has been disgustingly in the tank for the whole thing, is tanking as well.

    I ran a mid-sized cable company for a number of years and the best thing that could happen to cable would be for ESPN, the primary driver of ever-increasing channel costs, to be put it their place by genuine competition.

    I hate this whole thing. I have been a dedicated 49er fan my entire life. But no more. The NFL made the choice for me.

  30. After havieng watched and followed pro football since the AFC was the AFL and have seen all super bowls, I have quit because of the anthem protest and the NFL refusing to do something about. These people are on the job and can be made to stand or no check. Totally agree with everyone of chismaya’s ten points.

  31. Churyl Minne says:

    I used to watch one or more games per week. This season I could stomach only one so far. I will not watch the multi-millionaires disrespecting this country and the basically the viewers that pay his salary. I am also tired of far too many commercial breaks and too many special games on odd evenings.

  32. laserw says:

    I treat the NFL just like I treat NASCAR – given the high level of cheating by Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing, and by NASCAR itself for allowing the Chevrolet SS to run in the 2013 campaign when it did not comply with their own rules of what can be raced – I find no reason to watch that sport.

    The NFL has rampant officiating incompetence with Hockul, Tripplette, and Jerome Boogers heading the list of officials too stupid to put on their own hats. Then there is Krappernick’s Black LIves Matters Terrorism which I find racist in its execution and intent.

    Then there are too many preseason games and international games. There are too many bad teams. Then there are the teams that cheat like New England and Seattle.

    Right now I just watch my team and I avoid any other games – and I used to watch as much football as I could. As long as there are players squatting while the National Anthem is played, I will continue to protest by ignoring the other 30 teams.

  33. One name comes to mind regarding ESPN’s own ratings plunge…Stephen A. Smith. He’s become the “face” of the network. Unfortunately he’s arrogant, the sort that sucks the oxygen out of a room. Yet ESPN in their wisdom thinks he’s what viewers want.

  34. Jim Bond says:

    Real Americans vs. Kaepernick. Real Americans are going to win every time.

  35. Mike McNeil says:

    ESPN is awful.
    If you have cable or satellite you give ESPN $30 a month even if you don’t watch.
    I cut the cord not to save money but because I couldn’t take the liberal programming any longer.

  36. Karen Norton says:

    This is nly about the plunge in viewership. People don’t want politics with their sports. Also I’m sure the sales are down with their products as well. Who wants to buy a shirt from a team that disrespects our country and Flag and military.

  37. shamrock6699 says:

    Yep, after the NFL supported players disrespecting our National Anthem people decided to hit them where it hurts. In their pocketbook. Especially after it’s been discovered George Soros is someone funding BLM. NFL can support Globalists agenda, American people don’t have to.

  38. I used to view 2 to 3 games per week, now it’s zero! I will not support a franchise of any kind that does not support my country…

  39. Ja Busse says:

    So when a bad second string QB who made news by disrespecting all the fans and the country and the team gets promoted the team loses big and the best game so far was yesterday’s bye. Why watch people who don’t respect you? Why buy products that support them? There is no good answer.

  40. A lot of people have figured it out, the NFL is in bed with the big 4 broadcasters and 3 of those 4 are anathema to conservative thought, especially ABC/ESPN whose agenda has always been towards hate whitey. To wit, in one month ESPN lost 620,000 subs

  41. Joe Pickett says:

    get the politics out of the nfl and I might return. Screw you clowns.

  42. Who would have guessed the (K)Neeling Fairy League) would failing…??????????

  43. Black Lies Matter, but not to NFL fans. Suck it, Kaepernick –

  44. Rick Kramer says:

    I’m sick of watching these egocentric, gyrating, ‘look at me’ buffoons parade themselves after doing nothing more or less than what they are being paid to do. Half of them are ex-cons, half of them can’t speak intelligently, and we’re frankly sick of watching these mostly ignorant fools strut their galactic egos after every play. I’ve watched football for 60+ years. I find it sickening to watch these morons act like they are somehow special. Their behavior is….. can’t even come up with a word for their behavior. The owners better clean house soon. How can the NFL not see the filth and vulgarity they are now putting out on the field? Incredible. Simply incredible.

  45. If you watched the Hawks – Saints game that is a perfect example of how penalties are destroying the game, 11 for Seattle – 2 for the Saints total 13. NFL is becoming a joke, games in London, come on man!!

  46. I won’t watch as long as Kapereneck is wearing a NFL uniform.

  47. Brad Wheaton says:

    We need to start boycotting the sponsors of the NFL. BOYCOTT!

  48. hammerstamp says:

    NFL supports disrespecting America. NFL can bite me.

  49. Guy Litton says:

    Not watching until the league issues a new policy requiring players to stand and show respect or stay off the field during the anthem.

  50. Pro football has become boring, PC, and too controlled. Except for players off-field behavior.

  51. Sea Worthy says:

    They have resorted to Not showing the National Anthem. As if this means the players are respectful to the Country, Military, Vets and Citizens. Not showing it does not mean it did not happen. PC correctness running a muck and the NFL can not see the forest for the trees. I have not watched a game all year which is down from 4 a week last year. I have found that the time I am not in front of the TV allows me to pursue other interests, and less beer. I doubt there will ever be another NFL game watched at my house.

  52. I’m not going back to the NFL, they hate me!

  53. Buddy Wilcox says:

    Its Karma disrespect the Anthem and you get KARMA

  54. Brock Semlow says:

    its a 60 min game that takes over 3hrs to play, heck last 2 mins can take 30 mins, over payed babys play a game played by everyone else for free, the action is not not great 15 secs of play at a time. heck i have better things to waste my time with then this garbage have not watched for 3 yrs now not even commercial bowl. oh then theres how these idiots act off the field buts that a whole other kettle of fish

  55. Where to start, how many reasons not to watch?

    1. POLITICS. The commentary will tend to go progressive politics and should be left out of the broadcast booth. It seems the announcers do everything they can to make the game about them and social commentary.

    2. KAEPERNICK. Everyone has a right to protest and have a point of view. But a snot-nosed rich kid who never had any of the treatment he protests, who has little clue about what he is protesting, and (to some of us) started protesting to raise his profile and not get cut, is being excused by the NFL.

    3. COWBOYS. As opposed to the treatment of Kaepernick being allowed to protest, the Dallas Cowboys were denied permission to wear symbols supporting the DPD and honoring the fallen officers in the mass assassination. NFL supports hatred of America and opposes support for law enforcement.

    4. PENALTIES. Yes, there is probably a penalty on every play. But not calling some blatant penalties (see Cam Newton) and calling some penalties that seem petty compared to other, especially when it changes the outcome of the game, is beyond annoying. The inconsistency from crew to crew is an issue as well.

    5. QUALITY OF PLAY. I have tried to watch a couple games, especially end of close games. It just seems the quality of play isn’t as good as it used to be, maybe contributing to the penalty complaint in point 4.

    6. COMMERCIALS? From what I found, the games are not significantly shorter or longer than before. But, as the Wall Street Journal noted in 2012, there is only 11-18 minutes of action (2-8 seconds per play) in a 3 hour and 18 minute game – time spent on replay reviews took more real time than action – broken up by upwards of 100 commercials.

    7. NO FUN LEAGUE. I can understand no taunting, but no celebrations what so ever? Gimme Billy White Shoes Johnson, the Fun Bunch, Terrell Owens, etc. Let the guys have fun. The game will be more enjoyable and maybe keep the audience interested.

  56. Political sermons, too many flags and too many commercials. Fix it.

  57. Spider says:

    Most folks won’t admit it but the truth is we’re not just tired of the political bias to the left, we’re good and tired of black thug players. Were’s the diversity, man? You’re still running a business and 70% of your audience is under represented. Call me bigoted if you want but that’s the elephant in the room or should I say stadium.

  58. Mike Favetti says:

    On top and aside of what has already been said, these guys for the most part are paid in excess of their ability, beyond that most, if not playing ball, would be in jail. They look and act like hoodlums and we have enough those already without the need of glorifying them on TV.

  59. I believe the lion share of the ratings drop is due to the NFL and the team owners not reeling in their employees and allowing them to mix personal politics with an American escapist past-time. What’s next flag burnings before the coin toss?

  60. Steve Grant says:

    NFL…..why would Americans support an entity that subsidizes players why hate America enough to take a steaming dump on the National Anthem?

  61. …and if NBA players start disrespecting the flag, we’ll turn that off too!

  62. Message to Goodell and Kaepernick:

    Blacks are only 13% of the US population, but commit 65% of the VIOLENT CRIMES in America:

    When is the mainstream-media going to expose this NATIONAL EMERGENCY … ???

  63. John Beier says:

    The NFL has gotten political, and their ratings suffer.

    ESPN has gotten political, and their ratings suffer.

    Without offering any opinion on the merits of their political positions, it is simply bad business to take a position that will alienate a large portion of your audience. You will not attract viewers by becoming political on a sports show. All you can do is lose viewers whom you have annoyed.

  64. LOL… You morons pushed it too far!

  65. jameswlee2014 says:

    Bench K and leave him there. Fire Goodell and hire Mike Ditka. The ratings will come back.

  66. tadchem says:

    Limbaugh had it right, but the NFL still hasn’t figured it out. Sports is what people go to when they DON’T want to face anything political or controversial.

  67. I’m one of those who is boycotting for the national anthem.

  68. Anytime I see any player not standing for the Anthem, I switch the channel .. simple as that.

  69. Bill Hyder says:

    The beginning of the end for me is when it was made clear, Phil Simms would not and said as much, he would not say the word “Redskins”. Then the politicization of the anthem and the lack of any statement from the NFL regarding it. I’ve watched pro football from Unitas days. Am sick of it.

  70. NFL…. Can you say, “Thank you, Kap!”?

  71. Don Lasker says:

    I disagree with the author of this article wanting to cast any blame on Jay Cutler, QB of the Chicago Bears, for NFL broadcast lows. His description of Cutler as “one of the least likable players in the league” is an invalid ad-hominem and low-brow argument. Furthermore, Cutler stands proudly for the national anthem, hand-over-heart, at each game. Which, if some of the NFL’s ratings woes are due to national anthem protest, then that would not apply to Cutler, and –in fact– should make him _not_ one of the least likable players in the league. On top of all this, Cutler outplayed the Vikings QB in the game in question, and won the match for his team.

  72. Keep taking those knees you idiots. It’s working SO well.

  73. It’s the Kaperdink knee-taking PC baloney that makes me not watch. That’s racism couched in PC-speak. In addition, you can’t go 4 downs without 2 penalties and everyone is a pansy now.

    I’ve read others talk about ESPN, too. You can’t watch those clowns without them cramming their tired, failed leftist ideology down your throat and acting like it is “progressive”….they have a PC blindness that is mind-boggling….

  74. Floyd Martin says:

    We want to watch a ball game! We don’t want to hear about politics and the news!
    We want to have a good time and just watch the Game!
    Protest on your dime not ours!
    Keep Sports and entertainment out of Politics!

  75. Krapernacky who started the whole disrespecting the Nation thing was wearing a BLACK PANTHER tee shirt the other day ……. I may NEVER watch the NFL EVER again.

  76. Garth Bowen says:

    Good. I stopped watching on TV too. These people who make so much money and don’t like this country are not worthy of our admiration. Lots of little local heroes exist- let make them special – we have the boy’s scouts, the talented students, the volunteers who take care of the sick, elderly and poor. They kids need to be encouraged; they build up our civic institutions.

  77. John Smith says:

    Quit watching when they allowed protests in uniform. I will never watch again except the Super Bowl.

  78. Will David says:

    taking a stand against the knee. sorry Jed York(49ers ceo) and good for nothing goodell..not one dollar for the nfl..nor their advertisers

  79. Argos Wolf says:

    Baseball and Basketball ratings will start to decline too once players in those leagues start with their kumbaya SJW protests.

  80. Doug Day says:

    Delategate? Really? It’s Kap and you know it. And Brady wasn’t suspended over underinflated footballs. Goodell went after Brady with a vengeance because of a big, red, TRUMP hat in his locker that went viral after it was spotted during a locker room presser.

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