(UPDATED with NBA and MLB metered market results) If you’re into sports, last night was an early Christmas of sorts with big games across the television landscape. However, except for Larry Fitzgerald’s playful sack of his ex-teammate-turned-sideline commentator Kurt Warner, it was not a good Thursday Night Football for the Arizona Cardinals, or Fox.
The Denver Broncos plucked the Cardinals’ feathers 45-10 on the fourth week of primetime pro football on the Rupert Murdoch-owned network. That blowout was a bit of a Week 7 crash and burn for the Cardinals, who’ve only won one game so far, and for TNF. The game drew a 6.6/11 in metered market results on Fox and the NFL Network, taking a hard 39% fall from last week’s matchup, when the Philadelphia Eagles beat the New York Giants 34-13.
The Broncos’ win Thursday on Fox was also down 21% in the early ratings from the comparable game last season, when the Baltimore Ravens thrashed the Miami Dolphins 40-0 on October 26, 2017 on CBS. Like that game — at the time free of the protest controversies that hobbled last year’s season — last night’s TNF is a season low for the midweek broadcast.
While there has been chest thumping of late from Roger Goodell and others that overall NFL ratings are up a nudge from last season, a tumble like last night’s TNF proves how fragile those boosts are for a league up hard against a waning fan base and the realities of the TV and online environment.
Another major factor for TNF last night was just how crowded things were with other games, especially in major markets.
On TBS, the Boston Red Sox assured their 13th return to the World Series with a 4-1 victory over the defending champs the Houston Astros in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. Averaging a 5.0 and hitting a peak of 6.0 in the 9:45 – 10 PM ET slot in the early ratings, last night’s game was rose 108% against the last time TBS had an ALCS Game 5 in 2016. Apples to Applejacks, the Red Sox win also rose 28% over what the NLCS Game 5 delivered at bat last year. Overall, 2018 Postseason coverage had a 3.8 MM rating, which was a jolt of 52% over the comparable 2016 ALCS broadcasts.
Slightly up the dial, LeBron James made an assuring debut for the Los Angeles Lakers, though it wasn’t enough for the basketball maestro to break his opening-game losing curse. Up 63% in metered markets over the comparable Lakers v. LA Clippers game of last year, TNT-aired battle scored a 2.6 rating. In that vein, it also saw the Portland Trail Blazers top the Lakers 128-119, giving the Blazers their eighth consecutive win on opening night.
In his first regular-season game as a Laker ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/DYPodK2AJJ
— ESPN (@espn) October 19, 2018
We’ll see how deep the impact of the baseball and basketball games had on TNF when final numbers come in; it was also streamed on Amazon last night. However, in the meantime, it is worth noting that last week’s season-high Eagles-Giants game ended up with 14.7 million viewers and a 4.7/21 in adults 18-49.
As we await final ratings, Los Angeles has some other big fish to fry. The Dodgers take on the Milwaukee Brewers tonight in the National League Championship Series that could see the Dodgers heading back to World Series for a second year in a row. Go Dodgers!
And there will always be this from Mr. Fitzgerald:
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) October 18, 2018