The guest on episode 334 of the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast hosted by Jimmy Traina is NFL columnist Kevin Clark from The Ringer. Clark, who also appears on podcasts and hosts the video show, "Slow News Day," talks about the Super Bowl's lackluster ratings and why the league is having a longtime issue with the 18–49 crowd. Clark also discusses how sports fans' viewing habits have changed during the pandemic and how they may change after the pandemic. In addition Clark shares insights into his writing process, reveals what makes a good story and explains why NFL training camps are so important to him. He also gives us the behind-the-scenes story on transitioning to podcasting and the genesis of "Slow News Day." Other topics include, Aaron Rodgers' relationship with the media, the best concerts to see at low capacity and more.
Jimmy Traina: The Super Bowl ratings were down, which was not a surprise [since] the game was terrible. [It was] a surprise from the standpoint of, you had Brady and Mahomes. ... I read something this morning I thought was fascinating. This was the ninth year in a row where the Super Bowl had a decline in the 18 to 49 [age] ratings. Obviously cord-cutting is a real thing, especially with people in that age range. But it's been nine years in a row that the 18 to 49 age rating has declined. What would you even begin to chalk that up to?
Kevin Clark: The NFL has done some research on this. ... They've tried to figure this out for maybe four or five years now. But one of the things that has intrigued them is the younger generation ... they're not picking up their parents’ habits as far as, I was born in Pittsburgh; I'm a Steelers fan. Or, I was born three hours outside of Pittsburgh, but my parents are from Pittsburgh; I'm a Steelers fan. It's more of fantasy football; it's more of they will travel with the player. If they love a player, whether that's Tom Brady or whether that's Derrick Henry or whomever, and they move, they will go with the player. And they'll become a Bucs fan or they'll become [a fan of] wherever Derrick Henry goes in five years. And I don't know whether or not fantasy and all that stuff has implications on the Super Bowl in general. But what I will say is that the NFL is extremely aware of how the younger generation views their sport. And it's just a little bit different. I think they're still grappling with that a little bit. And I think that they've partnered and talked to a bunch of their sponsors because a lot of their sponsors are trying to figure this out, too. Pepsi is trying to figure out what's going on with 20-year-olds, too. And by the way I would extend that to the coaching staff. They don't know how to reach 20-year-olds. Bill Belichick, Les Snead ... they were always giving these guys tests because they didn't know how millennials or Gen Z learn. It's just, it's a generation—I include myself in this—they grew up on smartphones and have different attention spans and all that stuff. And so I think you can't find any layer of sport right now, and maybe the business world, where they're not trying to figure out the young people. But to answer your question in general, I would say if I could point to one thing, it would be the NFL has known that there's changing consumer habits among the young people. And also there's just more to do, there are more channels to watch, you can just go play a PS5. There will probably be championship games in other sports where I'm just like, All right, I'll play a little FIFA instead of this. So it's just a different generation and that's O.K.
Jimmy Traina: Yeah, and it's so weird to ever sort of talk about "doom and gloom NFL audience situation" when 96 million people watch and it's like, Well, what's the problem? I don't know how they were going to overcome that second half, which was completely unwatchable. But I do think if the number is down from 102 [million] last year to 96, I think it's more than just a bad second half. And I don't know if there's Tom Brady fatigue, or again, cord-cutting is a real issue. I don't know. I guess my question, too, would be, can you just chalk up this year's lower rating just to the fact that it was a bad game?
Kevin Clark: A huge part of it for me, I mean, I don't think any of my friends have asked about the game in the last three days. And that's how I use my barometer, my friends from Orlando, or some of my friends who don't work in media, because I think they just saw it and it was kind of a dud. And then [they] moved on and maybe they didn't watch the second half. So for me a little bit of attention needs to be paid to how every sports championship was down across the board. The Masters in November was just a ratings dud. The NBA, NHL and World Series ratings were down across the board. I think they were basically halved in most cases. I think that people [watching] the NFL stuck to the schedule for the most part. They played that Wednesday game or whatever, but they played the Super Bowl on the day it was supposed to be played. But I do think there's a bit of an adjustment period because the rhythms of all sports got screwed up this year. And they were competing with stuff they don't normally compete with throughout the season. We've never had a Masters on Sunday and then turned on the NFL. So I just think there was just a little bit of ... maybe it's sports fatigue. And we talk to television executives, Jimmy. Some people said this fall was to be the best sports fall we ever had. And the flip side of that is, at some point is there a saturation point? Are people just like, You know what? I am watching a lot of sports in the last three months.
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