This is a developing story. Numbers will be updated as more information becomes available.
As the last of the calendar-displaced sports slip away to return sometime in 2021, the NFL’s ratings picture is taking clearer shape. Week 6’s numbers were, on balance, some of the best the league has seen all year — “best,” of course, being a relative term.
As always, this is the space where we lay out the many caveats and possible explanations for the NFL’s ratings decline. Television news has enjoyed a massive surge in viewership the closer we draw to the election. Virtually every single sport has experienced significant declines in viewership, most much more than the NFL’s 13 percent regular season decline.
In short, this year is a statistical aberration, and we should view it as such and avoid sweeping judgments and presumptions on all leagues’ health (or lack thereof) based on these vastly skewed numbers.
While some fans are indeed tuning out of the NFL because of objections to social justice messaging, there’s no consistency to the ratings declines that would lead one to believe those fans have truly boycotted the league once and for all. In other words, fans return for the big matchups ... like Tampa Bay-Green Bay. So let’s start there.
Fox Afternoon Game: The Tom Brady-Aaron Rodgers matchup may have been a blowout on the field, but the game was a winner for Fox with 22.31 million viewers. That made it the highest-rated program of the week and the fourth-highest rated game of the season, with a 4 percent increase over last year’s game in the same slot. The earlier Fox game, which was primarily Chicago-Carolina with some markets seeing Washington-Giants, drew 12.1 million viewers
CBS singleheader: A whole panoply of games ran in the 1 p.m. ET slot on CBS, and while none of them commanded a huge individual audience, together they amassed 16.66 million viewers, up 2 percent from last year.
Sunday Night Football (NBC): The league’s warhorse slot continues to struggle; this weekend Rams-49ers drew 12.60 million viewers, down 15 percent from last year, amid heavy competition from the National League Championship Series Game 7 between the Dodgers and the Braves. While the LCS was down as a whole 30 percent overall from its previous low, Game 7 still was the most-watched non-football sport since January, and the most-watched non-World Series baseball game since 2017. That’s some strong competition for the NFL, particularly considering that Los Angeles had teams in both the football and baseball games.
Tuesday Night Football (CBS): Technically this was part of Week 5, but numbers came in later. While there was no 2019 precedent for the Tuesday night game, that Buffalo-Tennessee matchup drew 10.8 million viewers, slightly more than watched Saints-Chargers (10.69 million) the previous night.
The NFL faces its last significant ratings drains from baseball (the World Series ends in a few days) and the election over the next two weeks; at that point, the “competition” question will recede. We’ll see what happens then.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him with tips and story ideas at email@example.com.
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