It was not a good night for the New Orleans Saints, the Los Angeles Chargers nor ESPN and the NFL with the September 11 premiere of Monday Night Football – which may be the fault of the weather as much as the play.
As the aftermath of Hurricane Irma plagued Florida and delayed ratings collection, the annual doubleheader saw both games down from the 2016 MNF debut. With 48 of 56 local markets reporting, the Minnesota Vikings’ 29-19 win over the Saints and the Denver Broncos’ 24-21 victory over the newly City of Angels-minted Chargers snagged a 7.8 and 7.0, respectively, in overnight ratings.
Game-to-game, that’s down 14% from the September 12, 2016 Game 1, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ victory over the Washington Redskins. But it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison; the lack of a straight contrast for both games this year is only fair, with the 2016 metered market numbers based on a full 56-market assessment. The Vikings-Saints game Monday peaked between 9:30-9:45 PM with a 9.9 rating.
For Broncos-Chargers, the difference with 2016’s Game 2 — the San Francisco 49ers’ 28-0 thrashing of the L.A. Rams — saw just a 1.4% dip. The close Game 2 on Monday hit its high of 9.4 in the 10:30-10:45 PM slot.
Of course, the NFL and the nets are hypersensitive this year about ratings coming off last season’s declines. In the early part of the 2016-2017 season, numbers were down 12% year-to-year for the league. That ironed out to an 8% drop as the season progressed.
Things did not look great for the new season when this year’s September 7 kickoff between the winning Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots was down 13% in viewers from 2016. The audience of 21.8 million was the worst the official opening game has done since 2009.
Giving the NFL and NBC a reprieve, the official September 10 debut of Sunday Night Football was up 7% among adults 18-49 over 2016 in fast affiliates. The mega-market Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants clash rose nearly 1 million viewers over last year’s SNF premiere in non-adjusted numbers with an audience of 21.56 million, even without many viewers from the Sunshine State.
All of which makes Week 2 of the 2017-2018 season one to watch in more ways than one.