NFL tele­vi­sion rat­ings see in­crease for most pack­ages

The Commercial Appeal - - Sports - Joe Reedy AP SPORTS WRITER

Af­ter years of de­clines, NFL tele­vi­sion rat­ings are show­ing mod­est gains.

Three of the league’s tele­vi­sion part­ners have shown in­creases af­ter the first nine weeks of the sea­son while one re­mains flat. That is welcome news af­ter rat­ings de­creased 9.7 per­cent last sea­son and 8 per­cent in 2016.

“I’m glad the league has turned the cor­ner. The top teams are very ex­cit­ing and there are plenty of high-scor­ing games,” said Neal Pil­son, the for­mer pres­i­dent of CBS Sports who now runs his own sports tele­vi­sion con­sult­ing com­pany.

Pil­son said a ma­jor rat­ings driver has been the emer­gence of young quar­ter­backs like the Rams’ Jared Goff, the Chiefs’ Pa­trick Ma­homes and the Bears’ Mitchell Tru­bisky. That has cre­ated a buzz not only with their teams but through­out the league.

An­other fac­tor is that player protests against so­cial and racial in­jus­tice dur­ing the na­tional an­them have not been a ma­jor sto­ry­line this sea­son. Pil­son noted that “a few of those folks who said they were go­ing to stop watch­ing I don’t know how many did.”

NBC’s “Sun­day Night Foot­ball” pack­age has shown the big­gest im­prove­ment with an 8 per­cent in­crease from last sea­son. It is av­er­ag­ing 19.7 mil­lion view­ers, com­pared to 18.3 mil­lion last sea­son.

This past Sun­day’s game be­tween the Green Bay Pack­ers and New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots av­er­aged a league-high 23.7 mil­lion, and was the largest prime-time au­di­ence on any net­work since ABC aired the Academy Awards in March. NBC has seen in­creases all but one week com­pared to last sea­son.

“We’re look­ing for­ward to the sec­ond half of our sched­ule, which fea­tures many cru­cial divi­sional matchups, the Thanks­giv­ing night game, plus the Week 17 flex game. We ex­pect ‘Sun­day Night Foot­ball’ to fin­ish atop the prime-time rank­ings yet again,” NBC Sports Chair­man Mark Lazarus said in a state­ment.

ESPN’s “Mon­day Night Foot­ball” is av­er­ag­ing 11.418 mil­lion, which is up 3 per­cent (11.135 mil­lion). Pil­son has been crit­i­cal of sched­ul­ing for Thurs­day and Mon­day nights in past sea­sons, but he said the league has made im­prove­ments in those ar­eas. ESPN will have one of the mar­quee games of the sea­son on Nov. 19 when Kansas City faces the Los Angeles Rams in Mex­ico City.

“For years I thought that they were bury­ing those two nights but they have im­proved dra­mat­i­cally,” he said.

CBS’s Sun­day af­ter­noon games are av­er­ag­ing 15.713 mil­lion view­ers, which is up 1 per­cent from last sea­son (15.528 mil­lion).

This past Sun­day’s slate of five games, which was head­lined by Pitts­burgh at Bal­ti­more, had a 10.0 house­hold rat­ing, which was up 23 per­cent from the same week last sea­son.

CBS Sports chair­man Sean McManus, whose net­work has the 2019 Su­per Bowl, has been pleased with ad­ver­tis­ing sales for the rest of the sea­son and the Feb. 3 cham­pi­onship game in At­lanta.

“There are a num­ber of very good sto­ries. Kansas City is a team of na­tional in­ter­est, Ma­homes has be­come a le­git star and a lot of the big teams – in­clud­ing New Or­leans, Pitts­burgh and New Eng­land – are play­ing very well,” he said.

Fox’s Sun­day af­ter­noon cov­er­age is av­er­ag­ing more view­ers than CBS at 17.299 mil­lion, but this is a de­crease of less than 1 per­cent from last sea­son (17.414 mil­lion).

The only pack­age that has sharply de­clined is Thurs­day Night Foot­ball. It is av­er­ag­ing 12.522 mil­lion view­ers in its first sea­son on Fox, which is down from the 14.134 mil­lion on CBS last sea­son. Fox is hope­ful that the num­bers can re­bound over the next month, which in­cludes Green Bay at Seat­tle (Nov. 15), New Or­leans at Dal­las (Nov. 29) and the Los Angeles Charg­ers at Kansas City (Dec. 13).

Pil­son and McManus think the league’s over­all im­prove­ments could carry through the sec­ond half. That’s even bet­ter news for McManus, as he sees a num­ber of po­ten­tial Su­per Bowl matchups that would bode well for CBS.

“I’m en­cour­aged. There are a lot of good sto­ry­lines that will carry through­out the next cou­ple months,” he said. “With so much go­ing on that is neg­a­tive, peo­ple are look­ing for an es­cape and foot­ball pro­vides that for a lot of peo­ple.”

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