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Prof. Jeff McCall '76 Analyzes NFL's TV Ratings Slump

Prof. Jeff McCall '76 Analyzes NFL's TV Ratings Slump

January 5, 2017

"The juggernaut that is the National Football League catapulted to the spotlight largely through the power of television," notes Jeffrey M. McCall, professor of communication at DePauw University. "The league masterfully marketed the sport by distributing the games through all major television networks. The league went primetime in 1970 with Monday Night Football and later expanded to Sunday and Thursday night offerings."

In a column which is appearing in newspapers across the nation, Dr. McCall observes, "The NFL is still quite popular by the standards of pro sports and television programming. But this season's ratings have declined by double-digit percentages, perhaps a sign the NFL thrill is fading. Prime-time games are particularly down in viewership."

NFL Football 011aA sports fan himself, the professor is the author of Viewer Discretion Advised: Taking Control of Mass Media Influences.  "This should have been another banner year for NFL ratings," according to McCall. "Los Angeles, a huge TV market, had its own hometown team again. The ratings-generating Cowboys re-emerged as Super Bowl contenders behind exciting new stars Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. The Patriots were so good that all non-Patriot fans still wanted to root against them. The big city Giants made the playoffs and are poised for a playoff push, as are the Steelers and Packers, both traditional favorites. Final scores were tight all season, and playoff races went down to the wire."

He declares, "Just as television helped propel the NFL to craze status, television is now a factor in the sport's current decline. Broadcasts have too many commercials, and games last forever. Real football fans still have jobs to do and family obligations."

DSC8734McCall also believes games are "over-hyped," that "showboating" players detract from the games, and that announcers who micro-analyze contests and their back stories are also hurting the product.

He concludes that "the NFL should consider a 'less is more' strategy. Football, like dessert, is great, but too much of it becomes uneventful. Oversaturation during primetime diminishes the product. Sunday morning broadcasts from London add to the insanity. The NFL might like the globalizing of American football. Blue-collar football viewers, however, see this as a rhetorical signal the NFL cares more about European expansion than about protecting a truly American experience.

"Television helped make the NFL great, but now TV's overbearing presence has diminished the game. A renewed focus is needed on the sport itself and not the technical delivery. In this case, the medium is not the message."

You can read the complete essay at the website of Nevada's Elko Daily Free Press.

Jeff McCall is a 1976 graduate of DePauw, where he was a Rector Scholar and communication major. He went on to earn a master's degree from the University of Illinois and a Ph.D. from the University of Missouri. He serves as faculty adviser to DePauw's student radio station, WGRE.

The professor is regularly called upon to analyze media issues.  He recently discussed President-elect Trump and the media with the Washington Post and authored a newspaper column on that topic. Last week his column on the state of prime time television was published across America.

Source: Elko (Nev.) Daily Free Press