(CelebrityAccess) — The dual challenge of slipping ratings and empty seats at some games in key markets have raised concern for the NFL.
According to Nielsen, whose ratings were delayed by Hurricane Irma, ratings for the opening Sunday of the 2017 season slipped by double digits in every slot save for the Sunday night game, which saw ratings increase against last year.
The first game of the season on Thursday night featuring Super Bowl champions New England Patriots also saw a ratings slide and earned a 14.6 share, which is 11.5% down from 2016, and 17.5% down from 2015, according to Nielsen.
The league attributed the low ratings to Hurricane Irma, which dominated news cycles over the weekend. Cable news networks reported an increase of 8.5 million viewers during the hurricane.
The league is also facing low game attendance in some key markets. The newly transplanted Los Angeles Rams played a season opener vs. the Indianapolis Colts to a stadium that by some accounts, was 30% full, with far fewer fans in attendance than the previous night when the USC Trojans and Stanford Cardinals game brought more than 77,000 fans to Memorial Stadium.
As well, the San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Chargers, both of which relocated last year, have had trouble filling seats. The Chargers, formerly a San Diego team, were unable to sell out the 27,000 seat soccer stadium they are playing in temporarily while their new stadium is built while the 49ers were playing to a near-empty field by the second half of their opener.
While the NFL's business model is based largely on television revenue rather than seat sales to games, the optics are clearly troubling for the league, which hopes to create an atmosphere of excitement around NFL games.
“Any time we empty seats that something we want to address,” Joe Lockhart, a rep for the league told NFL Network journalist Joe Rappaport.