Sliding NFL ratings could throw networks for a loss – CBS News

In a fractured media environment where award-winning scripted dramas compete for the public’s attention along with goofy cat videos, one of the few things that multibillion dollar media and entertainment conglomerates could count on to attract millions of viewers — and generate the ad revenue that keeps them in business — was the National Football League.

These days, however, the most popular U.S. professional sport isn’t such a sure bet. According to Pivotal Research analyst Brian Wieser, viewership for the NFL was down 14 percent on a year-over-year basis during the first week of the 2017-18 season. That’s the lowest level of same-week viewing since 2009. 

As a result, Walt Disney (DIS), parent of ESPN; CBS (CBS), parent of CBS MoneyWatch, Fox (FOXA), parent 21st Century Fox and Comcast (CMCSA), whose properties include NBC, are in a bind. They’ve counted on the NFL to buttress their business as audiences for cable and broadcast networks have dwindled in recent years. It has been an expensive strategy.

Fox, CBS and Comcast signed a $27 billion deal with the NFL for the right to broadcast games through 2022. ESPN reportedly pays $1.9 billion per year for the rights to “Monday Night Football,” a 73 percent increase over the previous contract. NBC and CBS signed a $900 million deal in 2016 for the rights to broadcast Thursday night games.  

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