Football is finally back, and if the league’s opening game of the season is any indication, the NFL could be in for a wild ride.
The New England Patriots, heavily favored to not only win their season opener but also to repeat as Super Bowl champions, were stunned by the visiting Kansas City Chiefs, 42-27.
The game was filled with big plays, big stars and an unexpected result — something that is usually a recipe for ratings success.
But early indications are the ratings for Thursday night’s game were not only lower than expected, they were lower than any season opener in nearly a decade.
The scored an overnight rating of 14.6, the lowest for an NFL opener since 2009 when the Titans faced the Steelers in Pittsburgh. The game drew a 25 share.
A rating refers to the percentage of all households that were watching a specific program, meaning 14.6 percent of homes in the country were watching the game. A share refers to the percentage of households that were viewing TV at that specific time, meaning of all viewers who were watching TV last night, 25 percent were watching the game.
One possible reason for the decline in ratings is the heavy coverage of approaching Hurricane Irma and its impact on Florida.
NFL Kickoff Overnights:
2017: Chiefs/Pats: 14.6 Irma
2016: Panthers/Broncos: 16.5
2015: Steelers/Pats: 17.7
2014: Packers/Seahawks: 16.8
— Sports TV Ratings (@SportsTVRatings) September 8, 2017
NBC’s PR department tried its best to make the game’s ratings look as good as possible.
NBC’s Chiefs-Patriots NFL Kickoff Game Posts 14.6/25 Overnight (not including digital) – best for any net in 3 months (6/12/17)
— NBC Sports PR (@NBCSportsPR) September 8, 2017
While it is likely that many tuned into national news to track coverage of the hurricane, you can’t deny the downward trend in the league’s TV ratings that began last season.
Ratings for the league as a whole were down 8 percent in 2016 compared with the previous year. But prime-time broadcasts took the biggest hits with ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” and NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” down 12 and 10 percent, respectively, in total viewers.
The lower ratings could be a continuation of frustration from fans who are upset with NFL players who choose to sit during the national anthem in protest. Before Thursday night’s game, Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters was the only player on both sidelines to protest the national anthem.
Last year’s ratings decline was blamed largely on the presidential election — ratings were down 14 percent in games broadcast prior to the November election — but the numbers show a more telling sign of fans being fed up with the national anthem protests. Some fans have called for boycotts of the NFL because of the protests.
Not only is the NFL receiving boycotts from those against protests, but some are protesting games because the player who started the protests, Colin Kapernick, remains unsigned by any NFL team. The “#NoKaepernickNoNFL” petition on change.org has gathered more than 176,823 supporters.
The NFL could be in for another rough season in the ratings department as Kapernick remains unsigned but veteran stars like Seattle’s Michael Bennett and Philadelphia’s Malcolm Jenkins have promised to keep up their protests this year.
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