The decline of NFL ratings this season has been well covered, with pundits offering numerous explanations for the drop off. Two of the prevailing theories are that the decline of on-field product has turned off fans and that the presidential election was drawing viewers away.
Both of those theories were legitimized on Sunday night when the Seahawks faced the Patriots. The two teams are considered the best in the league this year, and their match up was certainly one of the best prime time games of the season so far. It was also the first weekend of football since the election on Tuesday. And just as many predicted, with the election out of the way and a solid match up between two good teams, ratings went up.
— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) November 14, 2016
The ratings boost wasn’t limited to Sunday Night Football either. Fox reported that the network had a 14.2 average rating on Sunday, 2.5 points ahead of last year. The matchup between the Steelers and the Cowboys had a season-leading 17.8 rating.
All of this seems to suggest that the presidential election was at least partially decreasing NFL ratings. It’s too early to draw definitive conclusions, but if these trends continue, the NFL will be right back where it wants to be.