NFL boycotters are bringing the league to its knees, as shown by the 26 percent increase in ratings for “Thursday Night Football” from Week 5 last season. Hey, wait …
The NFL is doing fine, of course. CBS announced it and NFL Network did an average 11.1 rating with a 19 share for the New England Patriots’ win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night. Those ratings don’t even include digital viewing numbers on Amazon Prime, which weren’t available early Friday. The television ratings are a 26 percent increase from last season’s Week 5 Arizona-San Francisco game on CBS and NFL Network.
Anyway, what this really shows us is that “Thursday Night Football” isn’t going away. The quality of the games are rarely good. Most of Thursday night’s game was the Patriots stalling in Buccaneers territory, and the Buccaneers never getting into Patriots territory or missing field goals when they did. It wasn’t a pretty game. But plenty of people watched.
As has been pointed out in this space over and over and over, the NFL “ratings crisis” is overblown. Consider that the Yankees-Twins wild-card playoff game on Tuesday night, which had an enormous 58 percent increase from 2016 because the Yankees were in it, had a 5.2 overnight rating. That game faced no real competition in the sports viewing marketplace on Tuesday night. The Buccaneers-Patriots 11.1 rating, despite going up against a Game 1 ALDS matchup between the Yankees and Indians, more than doubled that AL wild-card game rating.
Imagine if you’re the NFL. Sure, the games on Thursday night are generally sloppy, considering teams have half the usual time to prepare. But fans tuned in this week at twice the rate of an elimination game featuring the New York Yankees, the biggest draw in Major League Baseball. Networks are clearly going to pay for a program that produces a rating like the NFL can deliver over three hours. CBS said the Buccaneers-Patriots game ratings beat Fox by 325 percent, NBC by 176 percent and ABC by 132 percent. Now, if you were the NFL you’d really cut off “Thursday Night Football” and that revenue stream? Come on.
Not all of us love the NFL games on Thursday night. But millions still tune in. That’s why they’re not going anywhere.
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