The Sunday Night Football clash between the Rams and the Cowboys was supposed to halt the ratings crash the NFL has experienced so far in the 2020 season.
Spoiler alert, it most certainly did not halt the ratings crash.
According to DEADLINE Hollywood, ratings for NBC’s only weekly NFL game, were down a shocking 28%.
Putting on the two teams with big national followings, SNF snared a 4.7 in early ratings among adults 18-49 and 14.81 million viewers last night.
In numbers certain to change, that’s a fall of 28% in the ratings and a hard decline of 23% in sets of eyeballs from what the September 8, 2019 official start of SNF snagged in the early numbers of its opening game of last season. While the early Nielsen data lacks West Coast numbers, which is kind of important when you have a team from the mega-market of LA playing, this result is going to be hard pill for the NFL and NBC to swallow.
These results are disastrous for the NFL. Not just because the numbers themselves are bad, but because of the teams that played on Sunday Night Football. The Dallas Cowboys have possible the largest national fan following in the country, and the Los Angeles Rams play in the second largest media market in the country. In addition, both teams have star talent and are very competitive with playoff aspirations for this season. By all measures, the game should have performed extremely well in the ratings.
To add some further context, the 33-3 pummeling of the Pittsburgh Steelers by then reigning Super Bowl champs the New England Patriots last year went on to pull in an audience of 22.2 million on NBC, which was pretty much even with SNF’s 2018 season premiere. That 2019 figure inched up to 22.7 million when digital platform viewing was added in.
Also, at this point, last night’s SNF is down nearly 10% in the key demo from the early results of the the Kansas City Chiefs near blowout season opener win over the Houston Texans on September 10 this year. That primetime game at Arrowhead Stadium did have a scattering of fans (just over 17,000 in a venue built for more than 76,000) and a strong and blunt social justice and anti-racism message from the league and players – which was booed by said fans. In what may be indicative of where the NFL is already drifting, last night’s SNF was much more subdued in its stance over such issues and saw only a few players take a knee during the national anthem.
Every NFL game saw a protest of some sort, during the anthem and/or pregame ceremonies. The league’s social justice movement is no doubt responsible for the plummeting numbers which had largely leveled off and actually begun to show improvement last season. It’s also important to note that NBC didn’t even show the full display of social justice demonstrations from the Rams and Cowboys. ESPN, who is slated to televise two Monday Night Football games this evening, has said they will show social justice demonstrations. Meaning, the numbers for those games could potentially be even worse for ESPN.