National Football League ratings have never taken a hit like this before

After a controversial 2017 NFL ratings decline even more than before

The viewership decline last season likely means that the NFL's media partners - ESPN, Fox, NBC and CBS - had to make good on commercials to advertisers.

The NFL finished the regular season with TV ratings that fell almost 10 percent below the previous season because of changing viewing habits, controversies facing the league and a possible saturation point in the number of games available.

The NFL will cancel the final edition of "NBC Sunday Night Football" for the 2017 season, the first such move since 2006.

This follows an 8 percent drop across CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN last season, when former quarterback Colin Kaepernick and other players began kneeling for "The Star-Spangled Banner" before games. In comparison, the average viewership for an National Football League game dropped 8% YoY in 2016. Younger viewers are more content to watch highlights on their mobile devices than sit through a three-hour game.

Trump attacked the NFL on Twitter for not cracking down on players who kneeled in protest during the pre-game playing of the United States national anthem, encouraging people not to attend games and pointing out ratings declines. "That's a pretty meaningful drop", he said. That follows a decline of eight percent in 2016 to 16.5 million viewers.

NFL Thursday telecasts averaged 10.9 million viewers, down 12 percent from 2016, while ESPN's Monday NFL telecasts hit a record low audience of 10.75 million, down six percent. The NFL TV numbers are still the best in the business.

"The audience for National Football League highlights on YouTube have become pretty substantial", Mulvihill said.

Mulvihill also believes the continued growth of cable news viewing, driven by interest in the often frenetic Trump White House, is pulling viewers away from the NFL.

Fantasy football, and the residual popularity of NFL RedZone on NFL Network and DirecTV, has also helped dilute the ratings for Sunday afternoon games.

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