Are Fans Growing Weary Of HBO’s ‘Hard Knocks’?

Has the long running HBO series Hard Knocks finally run its course?

This season has certainly been a struggle. The first two episodes featuring the Dallas Cowboys just hasn’t drawn the audience that the show has in the past. Sports Business Journal’s Austin Karp wrote Monday that the numbers for 2021 Hard Knocks are down a whopping 19 percent, averaging 295,000 viewers in the first two episodes.

An argument can be made that the series, which debuted in 2001, simply is no longer engaging enough for fans who have plenty of other NFL “behind the scenes” to choose from.

It’s not all negative news for the Hard Knocks brand though. Despite the dropping numbers, they are still up 13 percent from last season when the league tried to go with two teams for the show – the Los Angeles Chargers and Rams – instead of one.

In 2019, HBO went with Jon Gruden and the Oakland Raiders, and the numbers were excellent. That season focused on some nutty wide receiver named Antonio Brown who burned his feet that offseason in a cryotherapy session. The first two shows averaged 719,000 viewers.

It seemed like Brown was the emphasis of the entire show, and here we are just a few offseasons later, and no player really has engaged fans in the same way.

Mind you, the Cowboys may be wearing on viewers as well. This season is the third time they have been highlighted in the show. They were also featured back in 2002 and 2008.

While the Cowboys might be a favorite of HBO, fans are turning their back on the show. Eventually, the cable network will have to take notice.

Written by Matt Loede

Matt has been a part of the Cleveland Sports landscape working in the media since 1994 when he graduated from broadcasting school. His coverage beats include the Cleveland Indians, Cleveland Browns and Cleveland Cavaliers. He's written three books, and won the "2020 AP Sports Stringer Lifetime Service Award."


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  1. Nobody watches because that show, for the most part, is the kiss of death. Since the show started, only 2 teams have made it beyond the wild card series with only a handful having winning seasons. This show is like making the cover of Madden.

  2. Matt, good article.

    Probably a combination of all things mentioned and then some. A lot of people, myself included, hate the Cowboys, so why would I sit and watch Cowboys entertainment.

    Nothing new. It’s there 3rd time. If their previous years taught us anything it’s that Jerry Jones loves Jerry Jones almost as much as a camera

    I didn’t watch a full episode of any of last year’s hard knocks but the few clips that I saw were all about COVID & SJW propaganda. People probably assumed it would spill over into this years as well.

  3. Could also have a lot to do with fans – who loved the insight and motivation provided by this show/series about these “alpha males” – no longer believe they are so motivational; rather too focused on their own selfishness and woke political agendas. My father worked for the NFL for 24 years and is looking down from heaven shaking his head at the direction of the NFL.

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