Comcast CEO: NFL ratings are getting better but it's hard to grow audience with so many choices

  • "It's early in the season. We're down about 5 percent," Comcast CEO Brian Roberts says about the NFL coverage.
  • Each year it gets more difficult for traditional media players to grow audiences as new platforms emerge, he says.

NFL ratings are improving, but it's harder to grow an audience when consumers have so many choices, Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts told CNBC on Thursday.

"It's early in the season. We're down about 5 percent," said Roberts. "That's a lot lower [decline] than people originally thought."

Comcast airs NFL games on its NBC network Sunday nights and Thursday nights. NBC also has the Super Bowl this year.

Each year gets more difficult for traditional media players to grow audiences as new platforms emerge, Roberts said.

"There are a lot more choices," he noted. "The world has changed, and so does the NFL. And they'll have to look at their own business."

According to an ESPN report, citing metrics from Nielsen, total viewership has fallen about 7.5 percent to an average of 15 million people through the first six weeks of the NFL season.

President Donald Trump has claimed the NFL ratings decline is due to the controversy of players kneeling during the national anthem. The president has repeatedly criticized the protests, and said owners should fire players who don't stand.

The anthem firestorm started last season when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the anthem to protest the treatment of African-Americans in the United States.

Despite the ratings declines, Roberts said the NFL has demonstrated it is "the best in sports at what they do" in delivering a quality experience to fans.

Roberts appeared on "Squawk Box" after Comcast reported better-than-expected earnings but revenue that slightly missed estimates.

Disclosure: Comcast owns NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC and CNBC.com.

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