Primetime television ratings for the NFL declined by nearly 10% on average last season, after declining the previous season as well. The dip prompted a national debate over the causes: bad games; too many games; Trump’s angry tweets; outrage over players kneeling in protest; domestic violence scandals; or too many injuries.
On Tuesday, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, arguably the biggest current active star in the sport, gave his take when asked by interviewer Jim Gray at the Milken Institute. “Why do you think there has been this erosion,” Gray asked, in NFL ratings?
“There’s so much for us to consume, as we all know,” Brady said. “There’s so much happening… I hate to say it: I don’t follow it like I used to, because, so many other things to follow. And it’s just what can grab your attention. There’s a lot more competition today than there’s ever been, I think, especially with social media, for people to consume information or to consume content. The NFL has had a great product, people love watching the game. I think it’s still doing better than every other program out there. But compared to a time when there was less things to do, it doesn’t live up to those standards.”
Why are NFL TV Ratings Down? Tom Brady says: "There’s so much for us to consume…I hate to say it, but I don’t follow it like I used to because there are so many other things to follow…I think that it’s still doing better than every other program out there” #MIGlobal pic.twitter.com/zbWBLOzz52
— Rich Greenfield (@RichBTIG) May 1, 2018
Of course, Brady has been at the center of a number of NFL public issues over the last few seasons, first for his role in “Deflategate,” the league’s investigation into whether Brady had Patriots employees remove air from footballs for him, and then for his public friendship with Donald Trump, who railed against NFL team owners last season for allowing players like Colin Kaepernick to kneel in protest during the national anthem.
Martellus Bennett, a former teammate of Brady’s, gave Yahoo Finance his own take on the ratings decline last month: “I think they have to be careful with over-saturating the world with the games, because now you don’t get that break to miss it. You got Monday, you got Thursday, you got Sunday.”
For Brady to say that he personally follows the rest of the NFL less than he used to is sure to grab attention—perhaps especially at league headquarters, where Commissioner Roger Goodell and other execs are eager to quash any notion that interest in pro football is on the decline.
You might think the NFL won’t be pleased to hear one of its biggest stars say he follows his own sports less than in the past. On the other hand, Brady’s comment blames the ratings dip on a phenomenon that is hurting all live sports, rather than blaming the NFL itself.