UPDATE, 12:02 PM: The final numbers of the first official game of the NFL’s new season are in and the league and NBC looked to have been drenched by more than the rain that delayed the Eagles and Atlanta Falcons match-up in Philadelphia last night.
Snagging 19 million viewers on the Comcast-owned network, the late starting Eagles winning kickoff game fell 13% in broadcast audience from last year’s NFL opener with the New England Patriots and the victorious Kansas City Chiefs.
That’s another year of straight double digit decline for the NFL and NBC. With last years opener holding the previous record, the 2018 battle in Philly is also the worst any kickoff game has done since 2009.
In fast affiliates, the season opener drew a 6.6/27 among adults 18-49. A drop of 14% from the final demo numbers of the September 7, 2017 game.
When you factor in rising streaming and digital viewership, last night’s audience for current Super Bowl champs the Eagles v. the Falcons drew 19.5 million.
In a rare state of affairs, but maybe not unexpected due to the more than one hour late start of the game because of weather, the match-up peaked very early. About 21.7 million were watching in the 9:30 – 9:45 PM ET slot during the first quarter of what was then a pretty slow game.
It was, of course, a pretty slow night on the non-NFL portion of primetime with CBS’ Big Brother (1.4/6) and ABC’s Match Game (0.6/3) up a tenth each from that respective last originals. The Disney-owned net’s Take Two (0.4/2) was unchanged from last week – not something the NFL gets to say from a year ago.
PREVIOUSLY, 6:47 AM: The Heavens did not seem well disposed to the official beginning of the NFL season last night, as rain and possible lightning in the City of Brotherly Love pushed back the start of the Philadelphia Eagles gridiron battle against the Atlanta Falcons.
With only Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett taking to the bench in protest during the national anthem, when things finally did kick off on NBC just after 9 PM ET, it certainly didn’t seem to be the most inspiring game. At one point, tell-it-like-it-is Philly fans were booing the current Super Bowl champs on live TV for their lame efforts on the field.
Then, as it looked like Atlanta would be grinding out a win, the action really started right near the end as the Eagles dusted off a variation of their Super Bowl move the Philly Special. With some quick moves, QB Nick Foles snagged a 15-yard pass from teammate Nelson Agholor on a reverse to seal an 18-12 victory for the Eagles and some respect from the more than just the fans at Lincoln Financial Field.
Sadly, that glory did not translate into the ratings
With a 13.4/5 in the metered markets, the post-midnight ending game is down 8% from last year’s kickoff of September 7, 2017. In one of the lowest season openers ratingswise and facing portions of a cable news-covered rally by a very NFL critical President Donald Trump, last night’s game is not only down from last year, but 2016, 2015 and 2014 – all of which saw successive declines.
To add more injury to that, the 2017 8:42 PM ET-starting season opener between the victorious Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots ended up with a weak 7.7/29 rating among adults 18-49 and 21.8 million viewers. That was a double digit decline from 2016 and the worst total audience an opening game had since 2009.
Even in a TV landscape where ratings and viewership are noticeably dipping, unless you are This Is Us or Game Of Thrones, those results have to worry the NFL and the broadcasters, especially the still Rupert Murdoch-owned Fox with its pricey Thursday Night Football debuting this year
We’ll update with more NFL kickoff numbers and other ratings like Big Brother, which was on too last night, as we get them later today. In the meantime, here are a couple more NFL nuggets. One, last night’s game peaked with a 14.8/25 in the 9:30 – 9:45 PM ET period during the first quarter, which says a lot about viewership patterns. Secondly, here are the top ten local markets for last night’s match-up, with, of course, the Eagles’ hometown way up at the top:
1. Philadelphia 32.9/54
2. New Orleans 24.6/35
3. Atlanta 19.8/36
4. Denver 17.5/33
5. Milwaukee 17.3/29
6. Richmond 17.0/28
7. Norfolk 16.6/29
8. Dallas 15.8/29
9. Greensboro 15.2/26
10. Oklahoma City 14.7/25 tied with Albuquerque 14.7/24
Sunday Night Football hits the field for the 2018/2019 season on September 9 with the Green Bay Packers v. the Chicago Bears.