The NFL just got another round of bad news on the TV ratings front.
Overnight ratings in 48 of the country’s 56 largest TV markets showed the season-opening doubleheader on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” had lower ratings than last year’s “MNF” double feature.
The Minnesota-New Orleans game that opened Monday evening drew a 7.8 rating, down 14 percent from the first game of last season that featured Pittsburgh and Washington.
The Los Angeles Chargers-Denver Broncos nightcap drew a 7.0 rating. Despite it being a relatively exciting three-point game that came down to the final play, it was still 1.4 percent lower than last year’s 28-0 yawner between the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams.
Even Sunday night’s matchup on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” between two teams that traditionally draw huge TV audiences — the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys — couldn’t surpass the numbers for last year’s “SNF” opener. The preliminary rating for Sunday’s game was an 8.0, while last year’s game between New England and Arizona finished with an 8.4 rating.
The one piece of good news to come from the preliminary ratings: Sunday’s Giants-Cowboys game saw an increase of 7 percent among viewers in the 18-49 age group — a demographic that’s extremely important to many advertisers.
The preliminary ratings data for Sunday and Monday’s games were delayed because the Florida headquarters for Nielsen Media Research, the company that compiles the ratings, was affected by Hurricane Irma, so final numbers could be slightly higher or lower.
A rating refers to the percentage of all households that were watching a specific program, so an 8.4 rating means 8.4 percent of homes in the country were watching the game.
National ratings almost certainly were affected to some degree by the attention focused on Hurricane Irma. It’s estimated that as many as 5 million viewers were watching The Weather Channel or one of the three major cable news networks Sunday when the storm roared ashore in Florida.
However, ratings were also down for the NFL season opener Thursday night, when Irma was many miles from the U.S. coast. The game between the champion New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs scored an overnight rating of 14.6, the lowest for an NFL opener since 2009.
It’s not just on the national level where the league is seeing lower ratings.
The Tennessee Titans game against the visiting Oakland Raiders earned a 21.8 rating in the Nashville market, according to WTFV-TV, the CBS affiliate in Nashville that carried the game.
That number was not only down from last year’s opener, which had a 22.2 rating, it is also down significantly from the 25.5 average rating the Titans’ opening games earned from 2013-15.
The Buffalo Bills’ 21-12 season opening victory over the New York Jets Sunday had a 33.5 rating on WIVB-TV in Buffalo. That was down from the 36.4 rating for the team’s opening game a year ago.
Many fans say they are boycotting the league because of the ongoing national anthem boycotts started last season by Colin Kaepernick. In a recent J.D. Power survey, respondents cited Kaepernick’s protests as the No. 1 reason they watched fewer games in 2016.
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