Week 1 TV Ratings Down Mostly – Should the NFL Panic?

Back in June, I wrote a column discussing what would happen with the TV ratings for the NFL after the league made a pledge to back their players in the fight against racial injustice. Week 1 wasn’t a promising start as ratings took a big hit across the board mostly.

If you are on social media or follow the news, you will see some mixed discussions regarding the ratings of the NFL. Unfortunately, you will see many broad brush strokes regarding the ratings. Allow me to paint the full picture of the NFL TV ratings.

The Saints and Buccaneers game blew the ratings out of the water. People tuned in to see two of the five best (Tom Brady and Drew Brees) QBs to ever play in the NFL go head to head. The game was strategically placed in the national window for FOX and carried 25.8 million viewers. That game saw an 8% increase in viewership compared to last year’s contest between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants in the same window.

FOX’s regional coverage spiked 7% for opening week compared to last season. That is the only good news in terms of viewership for the NFL for Week 1.

  • NBC Thursday Night Kickoff: 20.5 Million (-7%)
  • CBS Singleheader: 13.6 Million (-12%)
  • NBC Sunday Night: 18.9 Million (-15%)
  • ESPN Monday Night Football Game 1: 10.8 Million (-21%)
  • ESPN Monday Night Football Game 2: 7.7 Million (-38%)

I am not going to downplay the drop off in viewership for the NFL. That isn’t good by any stretch. However, the NFL still owns the viewership on TV most nights. Despite the drop off, Big Brother and The Masked Singer netted a hair under 5.0 million viewers each competing with Sunday Night Football. On Monday night, Dancing with the Starts obtained 8.1 million viewers beating out Game 2.

There are a number of factors to consider for the drop in viewership.

Sports Are Cannibalizing One Another Thus Lower Rating Across the Board

For sports junkies, this is the wet dream right now. Normally in September, NFL is dominating the landscape on Thursday, Sunday and Monday nights. However, the NBA Playoffs, the conclusion of the MLB season and NHL Playoffs are all happening in addition to the NFL. So we are seeing leagues cannibalizing each other. That being said, NFL is still crapping all over the other leagues as expected.

For example, the NBA’s most viewed playoff game thus far is 3.83 million for Game 3 of Lakers/Blazers. In 2019, the most viewed game was game 5 of the NBA Finals which carried 18.76 million.

Election Year

The NFL struggles during election years. The NFL began booming to unprecedented levels shortly after Roger Goodell took over in 2006. For all the hate he gets, he’s done his job lacing the pockets of the owners he works for.

Since he took over, there has been a steady decrease in viewership in all three election years thus far (2008, 2012 and 2016). A big reason for this is because debates usually air alongside of the nationally televised NFL games. In 2009, the NFL saw a two million uptick from 2008. The NFL went from 16.6 million to 17.4 respectively from 2012 to 2013. Then of course we saw the dramatic dip in 2016 followed up the historic low in 2017 as a result of the protests.

Covid

Although there is no hard data to back this up. It is in the realm of possibility that the pandemic is impacting the ratings. TV ratings saw a major uptick back in March before hitting a wall and falling by June. The combination of people being home and having nothing to do likely had to do with that.

In addition, people not having social interaction or being able to live every day life normally can potentially aid to the lack of viewers.

Lastly, no preseason or college football leads to a lack of buildup for the NFL. There wasn’t any sort of hard countdown nor tease to getting regular season football.

Black Lives Matter

It would be foolish to ignore the amount of people likely tuning out due to league wide protesting and/or speaking out against racial injustice. After all, the opening featured fans booing because both teams were standing midfield (NOT DURING THE ANTHEM) locked arm in arm as a moment of solidarity. Read comment sections and you will see people bitching about phrases like “End Racism,” which is a fucking moronic thing to be pissed about. Enjoy your next Klan rally dickheads.

Nonetheless, there is no denying that it does impact the ratings.

Should the NFL Panic?

I am going with a hard no at the moment. I will have my alarm at about 3.5 on a scale to 10 right now. I do think the season will be an uphill battle, but things should even out by November (assuming the season is still going). They won’t be competing against the other sports. The election will have concluded. It will have long gained the momentum it normally obtains during the preseason.

Much like I feel like we will have a better pulse on the league performances by week 5-6, I think the ratings will start to come around to get a good pulse on where they will be once the noise is gone.

5 comments

  • No, of course not. Like a team that loses week 1, you can’t panic and give up. BUT – The NFL has made some huge huge mistakes in deciding to back all of the political BS, as well as, in my opinion since they are the team I have followed my whole life, how they handled the Washington situation. BTW, I also blame Snyder and the team for how this was handled. Please check out my blog, “Im not boycotting, just not watching” as well as ‘if sports were sticking up for something else, there would still be outrage.” The NFL is in trouble. They blew it last time. They are blowing it again. Plus, once again, my opinion, it’s not just football, it’s everything. This games being played in front of no fans just have no energy. No fun to watch.

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    • With all due respect, sports have always been political. Maybe there still would be outrage but given the history of oppression in the US and a lot of these athletes made it out from under that, they have every right to voice so long as the NFL allows it. The fact that signs of solidarity and phrases “end racism” strike a chord on some consumers is laughable.

      I checked out the blog and given the Pro Trump narrative I see in a lot of the posts, are you ok with him intentionally downplaying a pandemic? Saying things like clean up the forest as if that’s remotely possible or would help prevent forest fires? Blaming blue states on covid outbreak while ignoring red states that have been hit hard?

      That also beckons me to ask the question, are you tired of the politics or are you tired of the politics that may not adhere to political affiliation?

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      • When have sports been political? Before a half rate QB decided to kneel, no one ever gave it a second thought.
        I am ok with him downplaying the pandemic. Truthfully, i find it faux outrage that people are upset about it. I mean, y’all hate him anyway. You just keep picking at everything he does and says and it’s just pathetic and sad. I don’t want the leader of the country panicking and telling us all to panic! Why would you want that? Not to mention, let’s not forget that Pelosi told everyone to come to Chinatown. DeBlasio and Cuomo told everyone to keep coming to NY. Why are you blaming Trump and no one else? People like you keep saying Trump messed up. Well what would you have done differently? Don’t forget that you were busy impeaching and calling Trump a racist for trying to do things like blocking travel. Yeah, I’m ok with the downplaying. Yes, these areas of the NW could have controlled natural fires to get rid of the dead stuff to stop these terrible fires from raging and becoming worse, but they choose not to.
        Look, I am like everyone else. I have my political opinions. BUT – I don’t live and breathe my opinions. I am not a liberal or a democrat. Politics is not my religion. Yeah, if for some reason the NFL had decided to start posting NRA logos in the endzone, and sharing some anthem before games and forcing all that crap down my throat like they are Black Lives Matter crap, yeah, I wouldn’t be happy.

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    • Also, thank you very much for taking the time to read and respond.

      Liked by 1 person

  • John Carlos, Bill Walton, Pat Tillman, Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Jackie Robinson…just to name some who have openly used the platform of sports for political pushes throughout history.

    First of all who’s y’all? When did I call him a racist for travel bans? Lol you’re making some pretty large assertions here. When was I busy impeaching? When have I defended DeBlasio or Cuomo? Seems to be a lot of goal post moving there.

    To answer your question…

    At the end of the day, his responsibility is the country. There’s a difference between lying for political gain and not causing panic. He chose the former. He intentionally downplayed it and ignored briefs. Now 200k are dead. Given I’m from LA. If a cat 5 storm was headed this way and we were told, “you know what, this isn’t a big deal. It’ll go away. It’ll pass. It’ll fall to a cat 1” knowing damn well it won’t, that’s blatantly irresponsible. That’s essentially what he did with Covid.

    He continues to downplay it by supporting conspiracy videos like Front line doctors. As for the fires, nearly 50% of the forests in the NW is federal land. That being said, you can’t just sweep it clean as if it’s a backyard.

    The only claim you made toward me that is correct is that I can’t stand him. It’s because he has no personal accountability for his claims and what he says and he is a terrible leader who is as self serving as they come. So no I don’t like him and no I don’t want him as the president of the US.

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