NFL Kickoff Scores 21.8M Viewers, Down Double-Digits From 2016 – Update

UPDATE, 12:55 PM: The score between the winning Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots was settled on the field at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA, last night and now the final viewership numbers are in too.

And NBC and the NFL might be feeling a lot like the defending Super Bowl champs: not so great.

With 21.8 million NFL fans tuning in, the kickoff of the 2017 regular season was down 13% for the NFL and NBC from last year’s opener. Not only does that represent a very real smack down for the league and the net coming off a previous season that saw double-digit declines in its early months, but it is the worst an opening game has done since 2009.

In fact, with Hurricane Irma evacuations in Florida likely having an effect on viewership in the Sunshine State, this is the first time in five years that the total audience of the kickoff game has fallen below 25 million. And, while the most watched network show in three months, even with streaming and other NBC platforms bumping things up to 22.2 million, the game still fell short of the 25 million mark.

All of which means a lot more is now riding on Sunday Night Football’s NY Giants and Dallas Cowboys match-up on September 10. Because if those two mega-market teams can’t score ratingswise, the NFL has a real re-think on its agenda.

PREVIOUSLY, 6:51 AM: The consensus was that last night’s NFL kickoff game would see the favored New England Patriots win at home – but the defending Super Bowl champions currently sit in last place.

In a 42-27 win over Tom Brady and crew in a game that went to midnight on the East Coast, the Kansas City Chiefs brought some real drama to the start of the 2017-18 regular season. But last year’s AFC West champs took some real hits too, with cornerback Marcus Peters getting blowback on social media and more for sitting in protest during the national anthem and Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry suffering a season-ending ruptured Achilles tendon in the matchup at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA.

Still, with a 14.6/25 in meter-market ratings, the beginning of the new NFL season was not exactly a winner for the league and NBC.

While better than anything on the Big 4 has done in the overnights in months, those numbers are down a sobering 12% from the early results of the Denver Broncos’ tight 21-20 victory over the Carolina Panthers in last year’s kickoff game on September 8, 2016.

Long season short, that’s not a good start for either the NFL or networks hoping to gain some traction from last year’s NFL ratings blows.

To put some greater context, the 2016 kickoff game, which was down from both the 2015 and the 2014 openers, went on to snare a 9.4/33 rating among adults 18-49 and 25.2 million viewers. With the eventual Super Bowl 50 champs 10 points down at one point before surging for the win, the Broncos-Panthers opener was the fourth year in a row that a NFL kickoff game topped 25 million viewers. With 27.5 million sets of eyeballs, the 2010 kickoff between the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings still holds the record for most-watched season opener since the traditional Thursday openers started in 2002.

Of course, last night’s 8:45 PM – midnight ET game comes off last season’s sacked ratings, as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell — who was booed and mocked by clown nose-sporting Patriots fans at last night — the Comcast-owned net and others are more than aware. Starting out in a 12% decline, a generous analysis had ratings for the 2016-17 season down around 8% overall from the year before in the end.

Before last night’s results, a sliver of hope had seemed to emerge as this year’s preseason games were up 5% over the 2016 exhibitions. Heading into Sunday Night Football on NBC this weekend, a lot of stock will be put in the big-market matchup between the NFC East rival New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys delivering the goods and the numbers to turn things around.

Until then, we’ll update with more of Thursday’s kickoff ratings as we get them throughout the day, along with Big Brother, Battle of the Network Stars and Beat Shazam results too. In the meantime, here are the Top 10 markets for last night’s game:

  1. Providence 35.6/55
  2. Kansas City 35.5/55
  3. Boston 35.0/59
  4. Denver 20.6/38
  5. New Orleans 20.4/29
  6. Norfolk 18.9/31
  7. Richmond 18.9/30
  8. Buffalo 17.7/30
  9. Milwaukee 17.2/28
  10. Seattle 17.1/32

And, because we can all use a bit more Game of Thrones, since the Season 7 finale of the HBO blockbuster last month, here is a little something to put Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick’s Thursday night in context:

UPDATED, 8:45 AM: Fast affiliates for the start of the 2017-18 National Football League season are in and NBC scored a Thursday winning 6.7/25 rating and 19.6 million viewers.

Down 16% overall in the key demo from last year’s early numbers, which was down from the year before, those 8 – 11 PM results will surely change as time adjusted final numbers come in later today. Right now the game itself is delivering a 7.2/26 rating and 20.81 million viewers. That’s a 15% decline from the fast affiliates that the September 8, 2016 match-up between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers pulled in. Again, if past kickoffs and live sporting events in general are any indication, expect Thursday’s demo and total viewership to change, especially being that the game went until midnight.

Having said that, the Kansas City Chiefs 42-27 victory over the New England Patriots in last night’s NFL kickoff game isn’t going to change and it is unlikely, based on the metered-market results earlier today, that the start of the league’s 98th season will bounce up to beat or match last year.

Unlike last year, there was a lot more competition on the rest of the Big 4 last night with CBS’ Big Brother (1.8/7) coming in second in the demo and sets of eyeballs after NBC’s NFL coverage. In fact, the vet reality show, which faced last year’s kickoff too, was up a tenth over the comparable 2016 show and up 20% over the final numbers of its August 31 show, which saw a night of NFL preseason preemptions.

The uptick continued for the House of Moonves with Zoo (0.5/2) rising 36% among the 18-49s too.

Over on FOX, Beat Shazam (0.8/3) and Love Connection (0.6/3) were pretty steady with their averages and up two-tenths and a tenth respectively from last week. A double shot of Battle Of The Network Stars at 8 PM (0.6/3) and 9 PM (0.6/3) were steady with the show’s last originals as was The Gong Show (0.5/2) at 10 PM. The CW’s Penn & Teller: Fool Us (0/4/2) and Whose Line Is It Anyway? (0.3/1) dipped a tenth each from their last originals.