Lamar Jackson’s debut as a member of the Baltimore Ravens flew high and not so high last night for the quarterback in the NFL Hall of Fame game’s unofficial start to a new season of football but ratings for the NBC broadcast match-up with the Chicago Bears definitely went down.
With a 4.7/9 in metered market results and a 1.8/7 in fast affiliates, the Ravens 17-16 win over the Chicago Bears in Canton, Ohio took a two-time double digit hit last night from last year. That’s a 13% decline in the early metrics and a harder 18% fall in the first round of 18-49 results from the August 3, 2017 gridiron battle between the always well watched Dallas Cowboys’ 20-18 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
Which, even though the 6.50 million watched the Hall of Fame game and NBC won Thursday night, means the usually virtually meaningless first pre-season game now takes on hefty implications. Certainly, coming off last season where the NFL was plagued with a ratings limp and controversy and Donald Trump’s fire over players protesting social injustice by refusing to stand for the National Anthem, a decline does not augur well at this point – something Rupert Murdoch must be very aware of as the increasingly New Fox prepares this season to start its deal with the NFL to air games on Thursdays.
It should be noted that not a single player on either the Bears or the 2013 Super Bowl winning Ravens didn’t stand for the National Anthem last night. It should also be noted that while they might have induced fans or the President’s ire if they had taken a knee, the NFL’s new policy requiring players to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” actually has had the knees cut out from it with filed grievances from the NFL Players Association.
On the flipside for NBC, its key demo result last night was up 260% over what the Comcast-owned net snagged on July 26. As is always the case with live events like NFL primetime games, those numbers could change as later numbers come in.
If those numbers do shift or not, the NFL was clearly the muscle on Thursday’s primetime but Fox and CBS put up a bit of a fight. The still House of Moonves’ Big Brother (1.4/6) was the second highest rated show of the night and just 22% behind the football game among the 18-49s. Though down a tenth in the demo from last week, BB was actually up 1% in viewers to an audience of 5.51 million.
Over on the Murdoch owned Fox, the Season 2 finale of The Four: Battle For Stardom (1.0/5) was down and up in the ratings. The Sean Combs, Meghan Trainor and DJ Khaled judged and Fergie hosted series was down from its Season 1 ender of February 8 by 23% among adults 18-49. Back in the late winter, the end of the first run of The Four faced sexual misconduct accusations against now departed judge and once Republic Records boss Charlie Walk but clearly no NFL. Having said that, week to week, The Four was up 11% in the demo and, with 3.4 million viewers, up 10% in total sets of eyeballs over its July 26 airing. Both those results are season highs for the series, which James Graham emerged the winner of BTW.
The CW was all encores and ABC’s only original of the night was the not so secretly Mike Meyers hosted The Gong Show (0.5/2). The crazed reboot was exactly the same as last week’s show.