Many of us found out last year, during a particular volatile Presidential election cycle, that sports and news are substitute products. NFL ratings were bleak before the election, and rebounded more or less to where they were at in 2015 afterwards.
This year, NFL opening ratings fell even further:
With Hurricane Irma ravaging the Caribbean and having Florida in its crosshairs, there was a huge uptick in news/weather consumption, according to Fox Sports research executive Michael Mulvihill:
You’ll notice that even with the drop in NFL interest and rise in viewership to the hurricane coverage, Pats-Chiefs more than doubled CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and the Weather Channel, combined. If you add up the NFL opener plus cable news/weather in 2015-2017, you get 20.7, 20.8, and 21.0, respectively.
Nevertheless, even if you separate what has now been two weeks of profoundly catastrophic weather in North America, we are still in a more volatile political climate than many would’ve predicted a year ago at this time. The NFL, it stands to reason, will suffer a bit from that. However, my prediction remains that ratings for the season will ultimately settle somewhere between 2015 and 2016 levels.