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Tom Brady on the NFL: ‘I don’t follow it like I used to’

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has always been one to look at the bigger picture. He knew that taking on the NFL following the league-mandated Deflategate suspension would draw the two sides into a protracted legal battle. It didn’t matter.

As an 18-year veteran of the league, Brady isn’t one to ignore what has made the product so popular and what plagues it today.

In talking about a perceived dip in television ratings surrounding the NFL product, Brady had a rather interesting reply. It took into account his own lack of interest in the league as well as what has to be described as modern technology factors.

“There’s so much for us to consume, as we all know,” Brady told Jim Gray at the Milken Institue (h/t Yahoo! Finance). “There’s so much happening… I hate to say it: I don’t follow it like I used to, because, so many other things to follow. And it’s just what can grab your attention. There’s a lot more competition today than there’s ever been, I think, especially with social media, for people to consume information or to consume content.”

There’s a specific dynamic to look at here. Television ratings don’t take into account streaming services that fans utilize to watch games. In fact, the NFL’s relationship with Amazon Prime has proven to be an absolute boon for both sides. And in comparison to other television programs, the NFL’s viewership has declined at a much smaller clip.

Even then, Brady’s point regarding an influx of options at push of a button has to be taken into account. The social media world requires entities to remain ahead of the times. It’s why MLB and the NHL has struggled to remain relevant.

A recent case study of this would be the NHL’s decision to air Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals series between the Las Vegas Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks during Round 1 of the 2018 NFL Draft this past Thursday. With so many options available to the viewer, decisions like that can have a long lasting impact on a brand.

In terms of comparing to other leagues and programming in general, Brady is right to indicate that the drop off relating to the NFL is not as vast.

“The NFL has had a great product, people love watching the game,” the future Hall of Famer continued. “I think it’s still doing better than every other program out there. But compared to a time when there was less things to do, it doesn’t live up to those standards.”

This was obviously a calculated answer. Brady doesn’t want to upset the powers to be in the league’s New York City office. But the underlying points remains true. The NFL has seen a downtick in viewership. Whether it’s political, societal or just the new normal remains to be seen.