Over the past couple of years, while the battles over kneeling during the National Anthem frequently drew more attention than the struggles on the line of scrimmage, the NFL’s ratings have been dropping. And not by a little bit, either. They’ve been tanking, and advertisers pay attention to such things. Now, in an effort to claw back part of that lost market share, the league is preparing to launch a new partnership which will stream games to fans’ various devices, including phones and tablets. Is this going to make a difference? The team owners certainly hope so. (NBC News)

For the last two years, the ratings for NFL games on television screens have been declining. This year, hoping to win back some of those fans, the NFL is going all-out to get them to watch on the screens in their pockets.

The new strategy is intended to reach as many as 400 million mobile devices, including on digital platforms like Yahoo’s Tumblr and Amazon’s Twitch. The main target: “Thursday Night Football.”

The league will continue to rely on broadcast and cable networks, but in a different way. For the first time, the league’s TV partners will stream games on phones and tablets. Previously, the NFL’s mobile rights were tied to an exclusive mobile deal with Verizon. This season, subscribers of any carrier can click on a network TV mobile app, Yahoo or the NFL’s own app to stream a game.

The league is primarily looking at doing this with the Thursday night games initially, but it could be rolled out to the weekends or Monday night in the future.

If they’ll pardon my saying, I’m really not sure that access was the problem, folks. Real fans with an interest in seeing their team play will generally find a way. I’m one of those sad souls who will actually break out my headset and listen to the Jets game on ESPN radio on the far too frequent occasions when the game isn’t shown in upstate New York because the evil bastards in charge of programming assume that PEOPLE ONLY WANT TO WATCH THE BUFFALO BILLS AND THEY

… but I digress.

The point is, even cord cutters have access to network programming if they want it. And if they’re really interested in seeing the game they have more than enough ways of doing so. That’s not what’s driving down the ratings. It’s not that offering another viewing option on mobile devices is a terrible thing. I can picture some circumstances where I might wind up watching a game that way when no other option presents itself. I just don’t think that they’re attacking their real ratings problem here.

If they could delete all the politics from the games and the coverage, going back to focus on the game in its purest form, people might start coming back. It also wouldn’t hurt if they stopped messing around with the basic rules of the game so frequently. (Seriously, Commissioner Goodell, kicking off from the 20-yard line was fine.) But more than anything else, return to the love of the game. It’s part of the heartbeat of America. Roll out the flag (and make the players stay in the tunnel if you must), have some military jets fly over and make it fun. And since you seem to control the cameras for a lot of the games, focus on the action on the field. If there’s a timeout, just pan across the fans int he audience with the most outrageous superfan costumes. It’s not that hard.