After a weekend of political firestorms and blasts from President Donald Trump over players kneeling in protest during the national anthem, leave it up to America’s self-described team to find a middle path and cut the NFL some ratings relief.
Sure, the Dallas Cowboys schooled the host Arizona Cardinals 28-17 on ESPN’s Monday Night Football last night. But the real takeaway for many will be watching the Cowboys and their hard-knuckled owner Jerry Jones linking arms and taking a knee before the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Yes, there were boos, and POTUS took aim on social media this morning, but the Cowboys made the point – and then it was on to football.
Snagging a 9.3 metered-market result and the best ratings of the season so far, last night’s MNF was a thankful ratings touchdown for a league that has been losing ground in that metric so far this season and all of last year. Week-to-week, last night’s MNF was up 7% over the Detroit Lions’ 24-10 crushing of the New York Giants on September 18, which was up over the season opener the week before.
There is a lot of crowing about the year-to-year comparison which sees MNF surging 63% in the early numbers over last year. Of course, in a league and at a time when ratings are down double-digits from last year, any up will call for balloons and ice cream. Overall, the NFL is looking at a 3% rise right now over the 2016-2017 season.
However, in another reminder of the influence of the ex-Celebrity Apprentice host-turned-POTUS on the numbers, last year’s comparable MNF matchup, Atlanta-New Orleans, was going head-to-head with the first Presidential debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton, which pushed MNF to an all-time low.
So, just saying, not necessarily gridiron to gridiron.
Officially kicking off the new TV season Monday, all of the Big 4 were rolling out new shows or welcoming back successful old ones. But it is pretty clear ESPN will be topping the night with these MNF ratings.
Speaking of ratings, ESPN moved to using the Nielsen Total Audience system today, meaning the Disney-owned sports giant will be hoping to capture all the eyeballs on all the screens, and not just the one parked in the corner of the living room.
Next up for the NFL this week, the debut of Thursday Night Football on CBS.