After Drop In Ratings, ESPN Could Cut 'Monday Night Football'

October 30, 2017Oct 30, 2017

The Hollywood Reporter reported today that things aren't looking very good for ESPN. According to the report, what looked unimaginable even five years ago seems now possible: that ESPN might cut completely or reduce the airtime of "Monday Night Football." 

HR asks: "Might ESPN elect to go without rights to NFL-games after the expiration of its eight-year deal for Monday Night Football in 2021?" They then answer that although NFL games have been the backbone of ESPN since its existence in 1987, and the biggest element of its financial dominance, this is now a reasonable question to entertain. 

In its agreement with recent affiliates, there is no longer specific contract language that requires the network to have NFL games in order to earn its lofty subscriber fees. ESPN has also realized that Sunday night football has already surpassed the viewership of Monday night. 

According to the Daily Caller, the decline in ratings since 2015 would greatly contribute to such a decision. 

"There was once a time where the idea of ESPN failing at all was borderline unimaginable. Now it seems not only possible but likely. The network won’t ever fail to exist, but the glory days of ESPN might be in the past," writes DC.

Breitbart News reported last week that network executives are scrambling to solve the growing problem of crashing ratings for the National Football League (NFL). The latest idea is to cut down the number of games, in order to end the perceived over-saturation of football on TV.

Fewer games were being proposed as the key to combating sliding ratings, with another idea being to cut Thursday Night Football by a total of ten games, reports Breitbart. In particular, the idea is to trim Thursday Night Football from 18 games a season to only eight, which was first reported by Sports Business Journal. 

Over the past decade, the number of games aired on television has notably increased. In fact, this year, the number of games has increased to 39 total, which is a 22% increase. College football has also increased over the past ten years by roughly 71%.

Sports Business Daily writes that there are several reasons for the rating downturn. "There seem to be dozens of reasons for the rating downturn, from protests during the national anthem and the continued ratings strength of cable news networks to the concussion issue and weather-related problem."

But one reason increasingly being discussed in media circles deals with so-called "oversaturation." For this reason, many are talking about cutting down a number of games.

Overall, viewership this season is down by about 7 percent from the same point last season and 18 percent compared with the 2015 season. More concerning the network executives are the 11 percent ratings drop in the 18 to 34 year old demographic. 

The NFL has been criticized for national anthem protests since former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat during a 2016 preseason game. Kaepernick claimed he was protesting racial injustice and police brutality. Trump has long been upset about the NFL protests, believing that they are disrespectful to both the flag and the troops. 

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