Fox CEO James Murdoch is worried about the collapsing ratings for pro football, but thinks the drop is due to “over saturation” and not because of the league’s constant protests during the national anthem.
Murdoch spoke at the Paley International Council Summit in New York on Thursday and blamed falling ratings on “how they’re licensing” the NFL, according to AdWeek.
In particular, Murdoch felt that the large number of games scheduled for Thursdays is too much viewing to ask of fans.
“So I do think the proliferation of Thursday availability — and the proliferation of football generally — does mean that you’re asking a lot from customers to watch Thursday,” Murdoch said. “And then they watch a lot more college football games on Saturdays, and then on Sundays, and then on Monday Night Football, etc. It’s a lot. So I do think that preserving the scarcity value of those events and that audience is something that is worth thinking about.”
Murdoch echoed the worries over the number of Thursday games heard recently from several other TV executives who were seen suggesting that the number of Thursday Night Football games should be cut from 18 per season to only eight.
NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart, though, discounted Murdoch’s statement by pointing out that Fox does not have broadcast rights to Thursday games, Pro Football Talk reported.
“That may be one of the reasons why he pointed to Thursday night,” Lockhart said.
Indeed, Lockhart insisted that the whole argument of over saturation is not an issue. “We are not oversaturated, though we will always look at that,” he said.
Neither Murdoch nor Lockhart addressed the national anthem protest issue, but the growth of protests have coincided with a massive loss of ratings since 2015. With the protests against the country starting in the 2016 season, this year’s numbers are down up to 20 percent or more depending on the game from the ratings earned in 2015.
Not everyone is discounting the effect the anthem protests are having on the league.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones recently spoke about the anthem protests which have spread throughout the league and said that the NFL is suffering “negative” consequences over the continuing protests.
“There is no question,” Jones said last week. “There is no question the league is suffering negative effects from these protests.”
The falling ratings may also be cutting into the networks’ earnings.
In a recent report, financial agency Credit Suisse, CBS’ consistently plummeting game ratings will have a direct impact on the company’s earnings with the financial service warns that the ratings could cut CBS earnings by as much as five percent.
Credit Suisse isn’t alone in warning that the NFL’s fall from grace is bad for the TV networks’ bottom line.
In September, another report claimed that CBS, ESPN, Fox and NBC could take a $200 million hit to their estimated $2.5 billion in NFL advertising earnings if fans continue to turn away from their football habit.