UPDATE, 11:55 AM: The final score for last night’s Sunday Night Football is in — and we don’t mean the Dallas Cowboys’ 26-20 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A total of 24.2 million viewers watched last night’s primetime game out of Texas.
Down 9% from last week’s season high, the Cowboys’ 10-7 loss to the New York Giants, last night’s SNF is the second-best eyeball result for NBC’s flagship NFL series after that December 11 game. It is also the third best any Week 15 SNF game has done and up a strong 34% in viewers from the equivalent game last year.
Still, with no The Walking Dead to face and mainly encores on the rest of the Big 4, losing ground after last week can’t feel good for the league or the Comcast-owned net in a season that has seen one ratings tackle after another — even when the Cowboys are playing.
PREVIOUSL, 8:26 AM: Maybe it was the fault of Maria and the von Trapp family or maybe it was people going out to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, but this week Sunday Night Football certainly can’t say the zombie apocalypse took a bite out of them. With AMC’s The Walking Dead having aired its Season 7 winter finale last week, NBC’s flagship NFL show had barely any contenders last night, except an encore of 1965’s The Sound of Music (1.1/4) on ABC – but the 26-20 win by the big-draw Dallas Cowboys over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was down from last week’s game.
After finally gaining some ratings traction in a season of lows and falls so far, the 15.3/25 metered market result of last night’s 8:30-11:30 PM EY game in Texas was down 7% from last week.
Now, granted, the Cowboys’ 10-7 loss to the New York Giants on December 11 was the best a regular SNF game has done this season in the early MM ratings, and last night’s game was the second best. Also, having crushed TWD’s year ender and everything else on TV last week with one of the biggest games in years, the dual heavyweights of the Cowboys and Giants ended up with a massive 8.7/26 rating among adults 18-49 and an overall viewership of 26.5 million.
Still, even with the best MM rating for a Week 15 game since 2008, the NFL and NBC were not able to capitalize on that uptick – despite having the self described America’s Team on the field again and the lack of a blowout, which has been a big issue in the declining ratings. In unadjusted fast affiliate ratings, SNF had a 7.0/22 rating among adults 18-48 and 20.88 million viewers – down just over 9% in the demo from the comparative numbers of last week.
Also, it wasn’t like there was a lot going on with the rest of the Big 4 last night. Yes, with CBS’ NFL game spilling over 41-minutes into primetime in the East Coast and Central time zones, the network had a full deck of 60 Minutes (2.8/9), NCIS: Los Angeles (1.4/5) , Madam Secretary (1.1/4) and Elementary (0.9/3). But with that overrun, all those numbers are tentative right now.
After that, even with a 10% rise in the key demo over last year, ABC had the Jule Andrews movie for pre-holiday viewing. Fox was all animated and comedy encores, and cable was relatively quiet. And, yes, NBC still easily won the night with a 5.8/18 rating and 17.58 million viewers — but losing ground so soon after getting ahead of the game, so to speak, reveals just how deep the NFL’s ratings problem this season is despite one or two burps.
BTW, last night’s Cowboys-Bucs game peaked with a 15.9/29 MM rating in the 11-11:30 PM slot. Last night was the second-to-last SNF of 2016; up next is the Denver Broncos visiting the Kansas City Chiefs on Christmas Day.