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Seahawks had one of the NFL’s biggest local TV ratings declines in 2021

Chicago Bears v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

This season was the first time since 2011 that fans witnessed a sub-.500 Seattle Seahawks team. It was no doubt a huge disappointment off the back of a disastrous playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams in 2020.

With Russell Wilson absent for three games and the team very clearly out of playoff contention by December, it was hard not to notice how empty Lumen Field stands were really since about October. Some of it might have been pandemic precaution, some of it due to ticket prices, but in general the place was not packed.

If there was plenty of seating available at Lumen Field, the local television audience also experienced a significant decrease.

Sports Business Journal has the info on the local TV ratings for the 2021 regular season, and the Seahawks’ 14-percent drop from 2020 was one of the largest across the NFL. The biggest percentage decline belonged to the Houston Texans at 18%, while Seattle’s nearest counterparts were the Chicago Bears and New York Giants. Of the eventual playoff teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers had the largest local ratings decrease at 10%.

Now the caveat here is that not all market sizes and household shares are the same. Awful Announcing has a nice article contextualizing the data:

The most interesting information in there may be the year-over-year change, with 21 of the 32 NFL franchises posting gains there. Some of those gains are quite large, with the Los Angeles Chargers (25 percent) and Dallas Cowboys (23 percent) at the top. (Percentage changes are bigger when the actual numbers being discussed are lower, so the Cowboys’ gain is larger in terms of raw ratings, going from a 23.96 to a 29.55 while the Chargers went from a 6.82 to an 8.49.) And while a lot of the teams that saw gains are playoff teams (unsurprisingly; local ratings success has a lot to do with the team’s on-field play), the Carolina Panthers pulled in an impressive +19 percent despite going from a 5-11 season to a 5-12 one.

But of the 11 teams that saw a decline, there are some big markets involved. The largest decline came for the Houston Texans (receiver Danny Amendola is seen above in a Jan. 9 game against the Tennessee Titans), who dropped 18 percent (to a 12.26). The next three teams there were the Chicago Bears, New York Giants, and Seattle Seahawks, who all saw a 14 percent drop (to a 22.15, a 8.39, and a 31.41 respectively). By Nielsen’s 2021-22 designated market area rankings, Houston, Chicago, New York and Seattle are the country’s eighth, third, first, and 12th-largest markets respectively, so double-digit percentage drops in those spots involve a lot of viewers. (For the New York market, it’s also worth mentioning the Jets, who saw an eight percent increase: however, that was to a 7.12, still well below the Giants’ 8.39.)

In other words, the 2021 Seahawks were not appointment viewing like they’ve typically been over the years. And they were really really boring in some of their losses, too.

I’m sure that can be fixed by just being a better and more exciting team in 2022, so get to it!