Interest in the league, as measured by word-of-mouth company Engagement Labs, sank 26% since last season -- to 294 million impressions from 396 million the season before.
Engagement Labs' word-of-mouth data includes all consumer conversations -- person-to-person conversations as well as from social media.
The company said that 2016 had the lowest fan engagement since the company began tracking the NFL. In recent years, high word-of-mouth activity came in the 2011 season (618 million impressions) and the 2014 season (517 million impressions).
All this data has arrived as the NFL's total viewership regular-season TV ratings sank 8% to around 16.5 million Nielsen viewers per game on average.
Looking at specific data, word-of-mouth activity among teens was down a big 44%, and women were down 32% -- far more than men.
Engagement Labs reasons that some of this decline was due to the political season. Among those who identified themselves as Democrats, word-of-mouth conversations were down 11%. Independents had a steeper drop, at 42%. Republicans' word-of-mouth activity was up 2% since last season.
The unstated assumption here is that word-of-mouth influences ratings. But could it be just as plausible that some third factor (e.g., concussions or cheating scandals make the sport harder to enjoy) causes BOTH lower ratings and less word-of-mouth? I'm still waiting for better evidence than ANY of the decline was owing to politics. Don't blame Kaepernick, we're told by the NFL. Blame Trump.