Football is back in America and from the early results, it’s a touchdown for the well compensated NFL and its clearly relieved broadcasting partners.
Cementing a shifting trend away from years of declining ratings, the September 5 official season kickoff game was up double digits over 2018 and Sunday Night Football nudged up a touch over last year as well, even with a 33-3 blowout by the New England Patriots over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
However, the real test had to be how the traditional Monday Night Football doubleheader performed with the New Orleans Saints vs. the Houston Texans and the Oakland Raiders vs. the Denver Broncos. Now we have the initial results and it’s fair to say, to inject a science motif, the vaccine works.
With a melded average of 8.6 in metered market ratings, ESPN’s flagship football show is up a strong 19% from the September 10, 2018 two-game extravaganza that saw the Detroit Lions and the Raiders come up losers – a far cry from last night indeed. Actually, the 2019/2020 season premiere of MNF was the best the show has done in the early metrics since 2015, which is exactly the kind of takeaway the league wants as their bragging bullet point in an era of small screen downturns in traditional ratings.
Not that it was all a seamless victory as the Disney-owned sports cabler took a lot of shrapnel on social media from fans over a new graphic. In fact, the sheer hatred of the new down and distance look was so intense that ESPN changed tactics, so to speak, halfway through the opener Saints and Texans match-up:
Our ESPN production team is aware of the feedback on the #MNF down and distance graphic. We have called an audible and adjusted for the 2nd half of #HOUvsNO and for the #DENvsOAK game to follow. New look pictured here. pic.twitter.com/SWLKKuW87w
— bill hofheimer (@bhofheimer_espn) September 10, 2019
For the individual games, the Wil Lutz-sealed game winning 58-yard field goal for the Saints saw the NOLA team clinch a dramatic 30-28 victory over the hard charging Texans and score a 9.3 overnight rating.
That’s a nearly 25% jump over last year’s first game of the doubleheader with New York Jets’ 48-17 win over the humbled Lions of Motor City. MNF’s 2019/2002 opener peaked with a 12.8 MM rating in the 7:15 – 7:30 PM PT slot as the Saints took the lead over the Lone Star state rivals in what is already being touted as one of the best games of the season.
Following that, which would have been hard for any team, was the Bay Area Raiders’ 24-16 win over the Broncos. Pulling in a 7.7 in metered market ratings, that second game was also up double digits with a 10% rise over last year’s comparable 33-13 victory by the L.A. Rams over Oakland.
If there was going to be any doubt that the 50th season of MNF was going to top cable and broadcast TV, those numbers kicked such apprehension to the sidelines.
It’s another week or so before the NFL makes its return to Fox’s primetime with Thursday Night Football but MNF is back on the 16th with the Cleveland Browns vs. the Jets. Welcome back!