At least one sports television network president believes that national anthem protests last season were a factor in the decline of NFL ratings.
On Wednesday during its annual NFL Media Day in New York City, CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said research his network did internally indicated that the protests played some kind of role in declining average viewers. He was emphatic, however, that it was merely a factor and not the cause. The average television viewership for the 2016 NFL season dropped roughly 8% last year from 2015.
McManus said that even though he believed viewers did not like the intersection of football and politics during coverage, CBS would cover any anthem boycott as a news story.
“We did research and it was relatively proprietary research, to be honest with you,” McManus said. “But I think if you look at some of the reasons why NFL viewership was down last year, that is a reason that’s mentioned by a fair amount of viewers. It is something they don’t find attractive or they find don’t compelling in coverage of the football game. How big a factor it was? I don’t really know. But it was one of the factors that I think perhaps led to the slight decrease in ratings last year.”