Updated. Originally published Dec. 9 at 12:06 p.m. EST.
The NFL's woes continue on, as last night's Thursday Night Football broadcast of the Kansas City Chiefs' 21-13 victory over the Oakland Raiders drew in 9.1 million viewers on Comcast (CMCSA - Get Report) subsidiary NBC, down 17% over last week, according to Deadline. The broadcast garnered an 11.6/20 rating in metered market results from Nielsen.
The result rings in week 14 of the 2016 season on a low note following a slightly more promising week 13. Barclays analyst Kannan Venkateshwar said in a note on Thursday morning that NFL ratings for the past week were "still weak," but NFL broadcasts continued their modest rebound from week 10 onward through week 13, which ended Monday.
"This likely points to the election as one of the reasons for the ratings loss this year, but matchups and compelling storylines continue to play a big part," Venkateshwar said.
He noted that both CBS's (CBS - Get Report) Sunday single-header and last week's Thursday Night Football broadcast of the Cowboys versus the Vikings, broadcast on NBC, saw an uptick year over year. The rest of the broadcasts, however, were down from the year before.
"Despite the ratings challenges, football still remains one of the strongholds for TV audiences," the analyst noted. Venkateshwar, who was not available for further comment, added that 11 out of the top 25 most-viewed shows across broadcast and cable last week were football programs.
"Not only is this attributable to ESPN and ESPN2 being down double-digits, but other cable networks like A&E, History Channel, Freeform, Disney XD and Disney Channel are also facing viewership declines," the analyst said.
RBC Capital Markets analyst Steven Cahall in a recent analyst note even took the extreme viewpoint that Disney should divest its sports operation. He asserted, "ESPN, and ESPN alone, has negatively impacted Disney's valuation."
He added that cable networks such as ESPN have lost their status as the "crown jewel" of pay TV and are now dragging on sentiment surrounding the company.
CEO Bob Iger, however, has downplayed the downward trend in ESPN subscribers, pointing to a longer-view picture.
TheStreet founder Jim Cramer also questioned the report on CNBC's Squawk on the Street, noting if the cable network showed signs of stabilizing its subscriber numbers, everyone would query, "Why did [Disney] get rid of that?"
He added: "Can we dismiss the notion of that last conference call where Iger point blank said, 'Look, we're more bullish on ESPN?' That would really be in refutation of this [RBC] piece we read this morning."
Given recent ratings, two pertinent questions are whether lower NFL ratings will materially affect advertising revenue for broadcasting giants in the fourth quarter and if the ratings issues will persist.
Sports experts on Wednesday at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York noted that while some of the issues for football this year can be attributed to increased competition from the divisive election, other problems are simply endemic in the sport.
"Look at the product itself: You have three downs, a punt, a commercial and repeat," said Ross Greenburg, former executive producer and president of HBO Sports. Ponturo, who heads Ross Greenburg Productions, said a typical broadcast has only eight minutes of game action per 30 minutes of air time. "A lot of things have to be changed," he said.
Additionally, Tony Ponturo, former head of global media sports and entertainment marketing at Anheuser-Busch, now part of Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD) , said that multiple NFL broadcasts throughout the week may be cannibalizing ratings from one another. Ponturo, now an adjunct professor at NYU's Tisch School and CEO of Ponturo Management Group, said that "no brand can sustain that."
He added that key advertisers won't be keen on the fact that ratings have been down so far this year "because the conversation suggests there is something wrong with the brand."
But Greenburg also agreed with Venkateshwar in noting that football is still king of American TV.
"Don't think the NFL isn't still a 1,000-pound gorilla -- it is," Greenburg said.