I overheard this morning that viewership ratings for (I think) the 1 pm - 4 pm viewing of the NFL coverage this past Sunday was down 24%.
That's significant, especially considering that for the last several years the NFL has enjoyed the highest television ratings on Sundays of any sport.
Between busier lifestyles, changing lifestyle situations, cord-cutting, a growing population migrating to more internet-based sports/entertainment programming that is mostly void of television ads and commercials...
I think you're probably closer to reality than most give due credit, Weirfan. And... I also think it has something to do with the ever-growing attention span deficit of the younger audiences as well.
I no longer have access to the NFL's Redzone coverage, but loved it when I did. Why? Because I didn't have to endure 30 minutes of commercials every hour, and I didn't have to deal with the 30 minutes of boring, flimflam action that most always accompanies every game these days.
The era of QB's throwing deep passes and the games being much more exciting has been replaced with the 3-4 yard check down passing era. That style of play today is becoming more and more prevalent, and I don't think that helps tv ratings either. Let's face it - 2/3 of an NFL game is pretty boring. If you're a devoted fan of a team - you'll watch. Or if you're into sports gambling or Fantasy leagues. But that's about it.
Society no longer spends 8-10 hours of a weekend watching tv, especially in the spring, summer and fall months... that's what this all comes down to.