As its Regular Season Ends, “Sunday Night Football” Comes in About 6% Below Last Season

Much has been said about this season’s football ratings. Between Monday Night Football on ESPN (down 9%), Thursday Night Football on CBS with co-airings on the NFL Network (down a collective 14%) and streaming on Twitter as well as last season’s #1-ranked Sunday Night Football on NBC (following afternoon games on CBS and FOX), football fans were not wanting for much by way of football — except for, perhaps, less of it.

Compound that with a contentious political cycle, the Chicago Cubs road to World Series victory for the first time in 108 years, grumblings from players over the scheduling and lack of viewer interest in some of the matchups and you have a myriad of possible reasons for the ratings decline — leaving the NFL with a few things to work out between now and the preseason.

We’ve been specifically tracking the ratings for NBC’s Sunday Night Football (arguably the crown broadcasting jewel of the NFL’s regular season) from 9/11/16-1/1/17 as they compare to last season (9/13/15-1/3/16) — which are actually only 6% below last season.

But that wasn’t always the case. It wasn’t until Week TEN that a 2016 game outdrew a 2015 game. Week 11 narrowly favored the 2016 season, but the following two weeks once again came in below the 2015 season. After a season high in Week 14, the 2016 season outdelivered the 2015 season for the next two weeks — with both seasons nearly tied in Week 17.

Not counting Week 17 because of the near-tie and the 2015 season won 11 weeks to 5 over the 2016 season.

snf

Below is a rundown of this season’s Sunday Night Football games on NBC and their viewership numbers (in millions)*

9/11/16 (Week 1) – Patriots / Cardinals – 23.10

9/18/16 (Week 2) – Packers / Vikings – 22.80

9/25/16 (Week 3) – Bears / Cowboys – 20.60

10/2/16 (Week 4) – Chiefs / Steelers – 18.10

10/9/16 (Week 5) – Giants / Packers – 16.60

10/16/16 (Week 6) – Colts / Texans – 13.60 (lowest rated matchup of the season)

10/23/16 (Week 7) – Seahawks / Cardinals – 17.70

10/30/16 (Week 8) – Eagles / Cowboys – 18.00 (opposite Game 5 of World Series)

11/6/16 (Week 9) – Broncos / Raiders – 18.30

11/13/16 (Week 10) – Seahawks / Patriots – 22.50

11/20/16 (Week 11) – Packers / Redskins -18.70

11/27/16 (Week 12) – Chiefs / Broncos – 18.40

12/4/16 (Week 13) – Cowboys / Vikings – 17.80

12/11/16 (Week 14) – Giants / Cowboys – 26.50 (season high)

12/18/16 (Week 15) – Buccaneers / Cowboys – 24.10

12/25/16 (Week 16) – Broncos / Chiefs – 21.40

1/1/17 (Week 17) – Packers / Lions – 23.8

With an average of 20.11 million viewers for the season — courtesy of those last four weeks, NBC’s Sunday Night Football looks almost certain to rank #1 for the season for the fifth time in six years. This would put it in a three-way tie with All in the Family and The Cosby Show for #2 behind American Idol in terms of most #1 rankings.

However, given that the first two weeks of the football season fall outside of the traditional September-to-May broadcast season, then that average decreases to 19.74 million viewers — which is just below The Big Bang Theory, which is averaging 19.83 million viewers (albeit in L+7) through 12/4/16.

It will be an interesting fight to the finish for CBS’s #1 comedy.

 

Sources: TV By the Numbers, Deadline, TV Series Finale, Spoiler TV and Sports Media Watch.
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