Two and a half years ago Mark Cuban, an owner in the NBA, had some less-than-optimistic predictions for where he thought that the NFL's TV ratings were going to go. ESPN's Tim MacMahon quoted Cuban back in March of 2014: "I think the NFL is 10 years away from an implosion. I'm just telling you: Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. And they're getting hoggy."
Cuban's viewpoint, given the period of decline that the NFL is currently in, appears to be validated 7.5 years ahead of his predicted time. However, as the third debate in the #2016 Presidential Debates loom, a big reason for the decline has been attributed to the American presidential race.
NFL's declining ratings
When it comes to what people are paying attention to, everything that gains has some kind of counterpart. People, moment for moment, can't divide their attention between two things. Those that have commented on the NFL's declining ratings see the presidential race as a big reason why.
For example on Monday of this week Brandon Katz, a contributor at Forbes.com, quoted Mike Bako, a sports analyst with Fox Sports, on the topic of the declining ratings: “The two biggest factors are the presidential race and an over saturation of poor games in prime time spots turning off the casual fan.”
Looking at the latter factor, maybe Mark Cuban had a point when he foresaw the NFL losing some interest from Joe Public. Looking at the first factor, the presidential race, I think it's Trump that has either captivated or horrified the American viewership. The result of that is that people that love him are paying attention as much anyone would that sees a political liberator emerging. People that loathe him or that see themselves as potential targets of what could be his future oppressive policies are watching the political news with as much concern as a sea-side home owner would have as hurricane warnings are issued.
Importantly, Donald Trump, whose chances of winning the presidency are considered to be fading, might leave the limelight soon as the 2016 election date nears. However, the impact he has had on American TV can't be ignored.
Donald Trump is bad for sports marketing
The NFL, in my opinion, might prefer the Republican Party given that they are a major corporation. However, you have to think that they'd like Donald Trump to just disappear from the limelight so that "Sunday Night Football" and other NFL programs get back to normal. According to Katz, October 16th's "Sunday Night Football" was the "worst performance of the 2016 season and a five-year low for the once infallible primetime program."
There is no football on Wednesday night as the third debate in the 2016 Presidential Debates starts at 9pm ET and continues until 10:30pm ET. Game 5 of the American League Championship Series between the Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians is well out of the way as it should be over before the start of the debate. However, you have to wonder if the National League Championship Series will take a ratings hit in an important Game 4 between the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
That game starts at 8pm ET and that projects the late innings of a crucial game to be played concurrently with the Clinton-and-Trump debate. The Washington Senators may have gone defunct in 1960, but they can still beat the Cubs and Dodgers here in 2016.
Public interest is a difficult thing to predict and the general opinion with Trump and Clinton is that the latter is going to win the election in a race that won't be close. It may be that the lack of a competitive election shuts down political interest in the USA until another 'hurricane' arrives. People change the channel when sports games aren't close: maybe they'll do the same thing soon with politics as Clinton is viewed as demolishing Trump. Accordingly, smart sports marketing right now might be to portray the Clinton and Trump contest as already over. #DonaldTrump #Hillary Clinton