Turns out three ugly Miami Dolphins losses in a row aren’t exactly a ratings boon for the NFL’s national ratings. Who knew?
Ratings for Week 10 are beginning to surface, and one that NFL observers could have seen from three states away indeed came to pass: the “Monday Night Football” game between the Carolina Panthers and the Miami Dolphins drew a 6.2 rating, the fourth-lowest since ESPN began broadcasting games in 2006. (The season’s lowest MNF? Titans-Colts, which drew a 6.1.) Locally in Miami, the game drew a 12.1 rating, weak for a local market and well below the 15.6 that the University of Miami/Notre Dame game drew over the weekend.
The ratings issue has hit red-alert status for the NFL, and there are plenty of potential causes: cord-cutting, terrible games and protesting fans rank high on the list. But before opponents of the NFL begin celebrating too much, there are other data points:
• Sunday’s Green Bay Packers-Chicago Bears game averaged a 22.4 rating in Chicago and a monstrous 39.5 rating in Milwaukee, strong numbers for a couple of non-playoff-bound teams.
• Seattle’s ratings have remained remarkably consistent since the 2013 season, with Thursday night’s game against Arizona averaging a 39.3 and a prior game against Washington averaging a 39.9 rating.
• Ratings on Sunday pregame shows are decidedly mixed. Fox’s shows are up as much as 5 percent, and NFL Network’s pregame show is up 17 percent. On the other hand, NBC’s pregame shows are down as much as 7.2 percent, and ESPN’s “Sunday NFL Countdown” is down 14.8 percent from 2016 and 25.4 percent from 2015.
Plummeting ratings have raised concerns across NFL front offices and league headquarters, with good reason. Still, the NFL remains the top draw on television by a long shot, and the league’s declines are in line with the decline in ratings across all of TV. So while the declines are an indisputable fact, it’s not entirely clear whether they’re due to the NFL’s own actions—permitting protests, scheduling terrible teams in prime slots—or forces beyond the league’s control. There’s plenty of data for all sides in this story to spin a narrative however they wish.
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