Week 1 was better for some of us (New England Patriots fans, fantasy players who started Lamar Jackson) than others (Miami Dolphins players, the entire city of Cleveland). Across the board, however, ratings on the day were roughly similar to the same week last year — up some places, down some others. Let’s dig in.
Thursday night’s kickoff delivered strong ratings, but you’d expect that considering that it was the first football in seven months, and the rivalry of Packers-Bears always brings heat ... though, in this case, very little of it. The game recorded solid bumps up over the last two years, though that’s in part due to last year’s weather delay for Eagles-Falcons.
Per Sports Media Watch, Sunday’s games ran in line with 2018. Giants-Cowboys in the marquee Sunday afternoon slot got a 15.9 rating/32 share, Fox’s most-watched program of any kind since the 2018 NFC championship. That’s up 1 percent from last year’s Cowboys-Panthers and 2 percent from 2017’s Seahawks-Packers.
If you’re looking at rivalries, that’s the best rating for a Giants-Cowboys game since Week 14 of 2016, which recorded a 16.5 rating. And you wonder why the NFC East is on your television every single weekend.
Earlier Sunday, Fox averaged an 8.6 rating across its games, which had a surprisingly competitive Washington-Philadelphia game in almost 40 percent of its markets. That’s down 2 percent from last year (49ers-Vikings) but up 2 percent from 2017 (also Philly-Washington).
CBS drew the short straw for games this weekend, broadcasting a couple of dog games in Cleveland-Tennessee and Kansas City-Jacksonville. Those games were down 4 percent from last year’s New England and Pittsburgh games, but up a substantial 19 percent from 2017’s mark.
New England decimated both Pittsburgh and the ratings on Sunday evening, averaging a 14.8 rating that was up 3 percent from last year’s Bears-Packers game, but down 6 percent from 2017’s, yes, Giants-Cowboys.
Again on the rivalry front: Patriots-Steelers always delivers, but moreso when it comes later in the season. Last year, the game notched a 16.5 rating, and the year before, a 17.0, both games coming in Week 15 when playoff positioning was at stake.
Monday night brings the usual Week 1 anomaly of two games, an early contest between the Texans and Saints and a West-Coast rivalry involving the Broncos and Raiders.
Next Thursday features an NFC South rivalry of Carolina and Tampa Bay, while Sunday night has Eagles-Falcons and Monday night. Notable games on Sunday afternoon include Cowboys-Redskins and Vikings-Packers in the early slot, and Saints-Rams in the afternoon.
One notable change to ratings measurement will come later next year, when the networks begin tracking ratings outside the home (i.e. restaurants, hotel rooms, Super Bowl parties, etc.). That change will come in the fall of 2020, and will be in place in time for the 2021 Super Bowl. CBS officials believe that ratings for the Super Bowl — already the largest of the year, by a wide margin — could increase by another 10 to 12 percent, according to an interview in Variety. Given that a measurable share of NFL fans watch games outside the home, that’s likely to have a trickle-down effect on ratings across the season.
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