After months of empty stadiums, sports began to slowly come back with NASCAR and Golf, followed by NHL, MLB, and the NBA.
Then the NFL took its turn, seemingly clearing a hurdle as the season opener kicked off in early September.
However, the NFL has been faced with several challenges:
- MNF games have been rescheduled several times resulting in an early and late game the same night.
- Positive tests forced teams to shut down facilities and reschedule games
- Teams are either playing to an empty stadium, capping crowd numbers, or filling the seats with cut outs. My personal favorite? The October Titans vs Texans game played in front of cut outs of 200 adoptable shelter pets in the stands.
But now, halfway through the season, NFL ratings are trending down from last season. Certain matchups drive some weeks up, but the NFL nationally as a whole is seeing a decline. Other sports are showing this trend as well; ratings for the NBA and NHL finals were down, Golf and Tennis are down, the Derby and Preakness were significantly down from last year’s ratings.
It was assumed that when sports resumed, penned up demand would drive ratings back up. However, based on rescheduling, sports that normally don’t compete against one another are competing against one another. This is causing an overwhelming choice of sports to watch at a given time.
The cadence is causing confusion—maybe even apathy. It was tough to remember to tune in to the Preakness or the French Open in October. According to analysts, sports viewership will remain low throughout the year as smaller franchises that don’t normally compete with the NFL suffer.
News is creating more competition for sports. With the election year news cycle running in full gear since March, the major cable news networks are all reporting double digit increases in viewership and in ratings.
In light of a tight election and a pandemic, viewers’ lives and schedules have been incredibly disrupted. Perhaps watching an NFL game or any game doesn’t seem as important or is no longer part of their routine. Casual sports viewers may not have the same interest they did before because of these distractions.
In 2020, the perfect storm has affected several types of media. Sports is steeped in tradition, kickoff around back to school for football, the boys of summer for baseball and March madness. Once COVID is behind us and sports can get back to its regular calendar, that expected penned up passion might return.