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TV Ratings Are Down, But Is the NFL Really In Trouble?

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Welcome to the latest episode of the Full-Court Finance podcast from Zacks Investment Research where Associate Stock Strategist Ben Rains breaks down the big business behind the NFL as the league’s falling TV ratings and continued controversy take center stage once again. But is the NFL really in that bad of a spot at the moment?

When the 2018 NFL season begins Thursday, September 6 on NBC (CMCSA - Free Report) the league will once again face another season clouded by controversy. The list of issues includes everything from head injuries, and the new hitting rule put in place to protect players, to the national anthem protests, which will play a role for the third season in a row. The anthem issue grabbed even more headlines Tuesday after Nike (NKE - Free Report) —the NFL’s official jersey sponsor—released a new ad campaign starring Colin Kaepernick, who helped spark the national anthem protests.

The NFL recently hired Activision Blizzard Inc.’s (ATVI - Free Report) Tim Ellis as its new chief marketing officer to help the league deal with some of its negative publicity issues. Yet, despite the big drop in TV ratings last season, the NFL is still a television powerhouse and is locked into multiple, multibillion-dollar TV deals for the next four to five years.

NBC, CBS (CBS - Free Report) , DirecTV, ESPN (DIS - Free Report) , and Fox (FOXA - Free Report) are all currently NFL TV partners. And despite the ratings decline, Fox upped its NFL bet in the offseason to grab Thursday Night Football broadcast rights. This might seem like an odd move to some investors amid nearly constant updates about the state of the NFL’s viability on television.

Plus, most of the league’s biggest corporate partners, which include Anheuser-Busch (BUD - Free Report) , FedEx FDX, Ford (F - Free Report) , PepsiCo (PEP - Free Report) , and Microsoft (MSFT - Free Report) , have stuck by the NFL because it is still by far the most popular sport in America. It is also worth noting that the league will once again experiment with streaming games on Amazon (AMZN - Free Report) Prime as the NFL looks to prepare for its future in the age of Netflix (NFLX - Free Report) .

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