Fantasy football takes some blame for lower NFL television viewership

Posted December 7, 2016

A recent decline in NFL television viewership has been blamed on a number of factors — including fantasy football and its fixation on the final result, rather than the nuances of the game.

Matt Walker, head football coach at UW-River Falls, doesn’t hate fantasy football, but said he does think it takes away from people realizing the team aspects that go into a game.

“I don’t like them (fantasy football players) loving it because it’s all about the ‘I’ and the person and the selfish stats,” Walker said.

He doesn’t see it having an effect on his players, citing their level of intelligence from playing college football.

“They can separate and draw a line between fantasy and our deal.”

Falcons junior offensive lineman Brandon Kliszcz is an avid fantasy football player and he agrees that it isn’t having a negative effect on the team.

“Honestly, I think most people are here to play,” Kliszcz said. Kliszcz added that of course everyone wants to be noticed and do well, but he doesn’t see that as a problem either.

Just over 57 million people are playing fantasy football this year, according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA). Kliszcz said he thinks that one of the main attractions for people is feeling like they are a part of something.

“It allows you to learn about a player and talk football with other people,” Kliszcz said. While admitting that playing real football is more fun for him, Kliszcz also said it’s nice to sit down and just be a fan sometimes.

Walker said he believes that the allure for people who aren’t involved with football on a daily basis is the things that show up on a stat line or a box score.

“It helps more people get into the game who maybe don’t fully understand it. It makes it easier to follow,” Walker said.

The head coach gets frustrated because the things he loves most about the game are the things that don’t show up in a box score.

“Not a lot of people notice a pulling guard or a zone blocking scheme,” Walker said. He’s disappointed that people are watching for reasons that are selfish, but Walker hopes that people will still appreciate all aspects of football and the great opportunities it presents for so many individuals.

As far as TV viewership, Walker said he believes that all of the different ways to follow football have caused the decline in ratings. With applications on smartphones, fans can get instant updates about their team and how individual players are doing. FSTA reported that 16 percent of fantasy players use their mobile device to check scores instead of watching games. NFL Sunday Ticket and the Redzone channel allow people to follow multiple games at once from one channel on their television and the NFL doesn’t take those viewers into account when calculating viewership.

Kliszcz is also worried about people not realizing the efforts of all players and just seeing numbers as a means to success.

“When you’re watching one player, or just watching the ball, you’re not seeing the complete game,” Kliszcz said.

He said he will continue to play fantasy football. Kliszcz also said he hopes that education about the game will continue and people will appreciate the little things that sometimes go unnoticed.