Colts’ local TV ratings sacked for big loss in Luck-less year

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The Indianapolis Colts got sacked over and over on the field this NFL season. The team’s local television viewership also took a big hit.

Central Indiana television viewership of Colts games this season was down 26 percent on average compared to a season ago. Ratings dropped from a 30.0 household rating for the previous regular season to 22.2 this season, according to Nielsen Media Research.

To put that into perspective, 321,900 central Indiana households on average tuned in last season compared to 238,206 for the season that was completed Sunday, according to the Nielsen data. That’s a decrease of almost 83,700 central Indiana homes.

The Colts finished 4-12 this year while star quarterback Andrew Luck languished with a shoulder injury.

NFL ratings overall this season were down 9.7 percent compared to last season, according to Nielsen. Some media analysts think that decline is due at least in part to some players protesting social injustice by kneeling during the pre-game national anthem.

On average, NFL games were watched by 1.6 million fewer people nationally this season compared to last season (14.9 million vs. 16.5 million).

“We have not done a scientific study on this season’s ratings, but it’s generally true that a 4-12 record will draw significantly lower ratings than 12-4, particularly when your star QB is sidelined,” Colts Chief Operating Officer Pete Ward said when asked if the Colts' ratings decline was impacted by the protests or if it was due primarily to the team’s on-field performance.

Fan fatigue over the Colts' continued struggles likely had an impact this season–the team’s third consecutive non-winning season. The Colts were 8-8 and missed the playoffs in each of the two previous seasons prior to this one. 

And as this season progressed, TV viewership got worse. After six games this season, Colts games had a 23.5 rating (252,000 households), before the average rating eventually settled to 22.2 (238,206 households) by the end of the season.

No doubt, Indianapolis—like most cities—loves a winner. 

Colts games scored a 34.3 rating (368,125 households) in 2014, the last season the team made the playoffs. The team's regular season record was 11-5.

Even with the declines, the Colts games were the highest-rated shows in their time slots by a wide margin and each game was the highest rated show on any channel in this market of that week, according to Nielsen.

Fewer than 20 percent of the TV shows in the local market score a rating half as high as the Colts are earning, the ratings service said.

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