Sunday night was the calm before the “Walking Dead” storm that will hit next week for the broadcasters. In preliminary Nielsen ratings, “Sunday Night Football” was the night’s winner, despite its Indianapolis Colts-Houston Texans overtime finisher only drawing 12.95 million total viewers and a 4.9 rating from 8:30 to 11 p.m. (The game didn’t finish until well past the hour.)
Last week, “SNF” had the misfortune of going up against the second presidential debate, but still drew a 5.2 in the demo and 15 million viewers in Nielsen’s preliminary ratings. (It ended up with a 6.7 rating in the demo and 18.06 million viewers once the final viewership was tallied.)
This week’s “SNF” game went up against the second game of the MLB’s highly anticipated National Championship League Series, in which the L.A. Dodgers eked out a win over the Chicago Cubs to tie the series 1-1. The game notched a 5.0 household rating on FS1 in Nielsen’s super-early overnight numbers — “SNF” had a 9.0 overnight household rating.
A note about the continued slippage in NFL ratings (particularly in primetime): The lower ratings appear to be more of a function of people simply watching less of the games. The number of people actually tuning in to the telecasts isn’t declining, overall — but they are watching, on average, five minutes less than they did in 2015. Because the average viewer per minute rating is calculated by dividing the minutes watched by the number of people watching, a decrease in minutes viewed leads to a lower rating.
The most likely culprit in the NFL ratings declines, therefore, isn’t the much-talked-about player protests against police brutality and systemic racism, or even the siphoning off of audiences by election coverage. What’s causing people to spend less time with the NFL is boring match-ups, games that feel like slogs, and simple NFL overload.
With all the other TV out there, do you really want to spend some of your precious free time watching the Colts lose to the Texans?
Elsewhere on Sunday night:
ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” slipped again, to a 1.1 demo rating and 3.48 million viewers. “Secrets and Lies” fell to a 0.9 demo rating and 3.45 million total viewers. “Quantico” hit a series low with a 0.8 demo and 3.04 million viewers.
“Quantico” did best “Elementary,” its timeslot competition on CBS, but only in the demo. The Sherlock Holmes update weighed in with a 0.7 demo rating and 5.3 million viewers. Earlier in the evening on CBS, “Madam Secretary” drew a 1.1 demo and 9.02 million total viewers, and “NCIS: LA” notched a 1.3 in the demo and 10.76 million viewers. “60 Minutes” started off the night with a 1.2 demo rating and 10.22 million viewers.
On Fox, the annual “Treehouse of Horror” episode of “The Simpsons,” the 600th episode of the show, notched a 3.1 demo rating and 7.51 million total viewers, thanks to a cushy lead-in from Fox’s post-Cowboys-Packers analysis. “Son of Zorn” came in with a 1.5 demo and 3.83 million total viewers. “Family Guy” drew a 1.6 and 3.67 million viewers, while “Last Man on Earth” came in with a 1.1 and 2.67 million.
Comparisons to last week don’t quite work, given that most of the broadcasters — save NBC — were in debate coverage as of 9 p.m. Most of these shows will see lifts of 50% or more once viewing within three and seven days is counted.
Other weekend ratings notes:
In preliminary ratings that are subject to revisions, ABC’s telecast of a Big Ten showdown between eighth-ranked Wisconsin and number two Ohio State had an audience of 8.32 million and a 2.5 demo rating.
Overnight ratings put “SNL,” hosted this week by Emily Blunt with musical guest Bruno Mars, at a 2.3 rating in the demo (with only the 25 biggest markets reporting data). That’s the biggest week 3 demo rating for the show since 2011.
CBS’ Friday lineup has the unusual tendency to grow its audience over the course of the night. “MacGyver” drew a 1.1 demo rating and 7.51 million total viewers. Next came “Hawaii Five-0” with a 1.2 demo rating and 9.14 million, followed by “Blue Bloods” with a similar 1.2 demo but 10.05 million viewers.
On Fox, “Hell’s Kitchen” continued to hold down the night with a 1.0 demo rating and 3.63 million viewers. “The Exorcist” drew a 0.7 and 2.1 million total viewers.
ABC’s “Last Man Standing” drew a 1.0 in the demo and 5.63 million viewers. “Dr. Ken” weighed in with a 0.9 and 4.26 million. “Shark Tank” tied Hawaii Five-0 in the demo with a 1.2, but drew 5.14 million viewers. And capping off the night, “20/20” drew a 0.8 and 3.6 million total viewers.
NBC’s “Caught on Camera” premiered to a mere 0.6 demo rating and 3.12 million viewers. “Dateline” from 9-11 p.m. brought in a 1.0 and 4.83 million viewers.