If Fox and the NFL thought they were going to score with two struggling teams going head-to-head on Thursday Night Football, the San Francisco 49ers’ 34-3 demolition of the Oakland Raiders relieved them of that notion. Add to the fact that one of the cheerleaders for Colin Kaepernick’s old team seemed to be taking a knee in protest during the national anthem — a move that spread like wildfire across social media — and the battle of the Bay was sunk, at least in the ratings.
Coming a very rare second to the 8.3 metered-market rating of CBS’ The Big Bang Theory, the blowout game drew an 8.2/14 in the early metrics. That’s a decline of 11% from last week’s TNF, when the Houston Texans beat the Miami Dolphins 42-23 on the Rupert Murdoch owned-net and the NFL Network.
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There’s no real comparison to last year, as the comparable TNF Buffalo Bills-New York Jets matchup was only shown on NFLN.
Whether or not the apparent protest played a role in this week’s ratings downturn is unknown. However, unlike last year’s ratings-hobbled NFL season, the on-field actions protesting social injustice have been rare and few this season. Although the league tried to bring in a fine system for on-field protests this summer, the policy soon fell apart due to conflict with the players’ association. Which means right now the NFL has no stance on anyone taking a knee, cheerleaders or not.
Meanwhile, CBS’ The Big Bang Theory (2.1 rating in the 18-49 demographic, 12.40 million viewers) was the night’s most watched program, virtually doubling football in its 8 PM slot. The network’s Young Sheldon (1.7, 10.90M) did same at 8:30 PM, besting football by nearly 3M.
NBC’s Superstore (0.8, 3.271M) delivered its most watched episode since March 22.
Will & Grace (0.8, 3.466M), featuring Grace’s #MeToo moment, and Law & Order: SVU (0.9, 4.542M) clocked total-viewer bests since season launches, while The Good Place (0.9, 4.542M) clocked a four-week best in overall crowd.
The CW’s Legacies (0.4, 1.150M) pulled off a Week 2 improvement, plus minor gains in total viewers. Its Supernatural lead-in (0.4, 1.450M) was flat in the demo and up in total viewers week over week.
Also among Thursday’s demo gainers, ABC’s 10 PM How to Get Away with Murder (0.8, 2.908M).
CBS (1.2, 7.952M) was the most watched network for the night, besting football-broadcasting Fox (2.1, 7.374M), which ran a lap ahead in the demo for No. 1 status. ABC (1.1, 4.815M) came in third in both metrics, followed by NBC (0.8, 3.473M) and CW (0.4, 1.300M).
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