TV networks going down

They’re paying nearly 2x for content that is rapidly losing viewership. That math can’t hold up for long:


You may have noticed that the glam Super Bowl matchup of Brady vs. Mahomes didn’t deliver the TV rating the NFL would have liked. The ratings were down 9 percent from last year. That may be because ratings are the average number of people watching throughout the game, and surely people switched off the 31-9 contest when it was a snoozer midway through the second half. But the NFL isn’t too concerned. Ratings for the NBA Finals were down more than 50 percent in 2020 from 2019, even with LeBron James playing; prime-time programming across all networks is down more than 18 percent from last season. And the NFL’s streaming numbers—5.7 million Americans streamed the game eight days ago—were up more than 60 percent from last year.

Why am I telling you all this? Because the NFL is close—“within a month,” one source told me at the Super Bowl—to inking new 10-year contracts with its network partners that could result in an aggregate increase of 70 to 100 percent in rights fees from the last contract.

This is the problem with smoking your own supply. Not a single mainstream source has even begun to accept that it is their convergence that is costing the sports leagues their audiences. The Super Bowl ratings weren’t down because it was a bad game; in fact, it was a very intriguing game with an all-time matchup of great quarterbacks. The ratings were down because so many NFL fans aren’t watching pro football anymore.

And next year, the ratings will be even worse. Which is all to the good.