NFL ratings deniers from Roger Goodell all the way to CBS CEO Les Moonves blame the presidential election in general, and Donald Trump in particular when pressed on why NFL ratings have fallen to a point halfway between nowhere and goodbye.
While this feeble talking point is easily disproved in any number of ways, this week’s edition of Monday Night Football actually makes the case nicely. On Monday night, the New York Jets hosted the Indianapolis Colts in a game that only close family relatives, paid employees, and masochists could have enjoyed.
In terms of ratings, the game didn’t draw flies. It pulled a 6.0 overnight rating, the second worst rating of any Monday Night Football game this year. The only other MNF game this year to do worse was the late September matchup between the Falcons and the Saints. That game drew a 5.7 overnight rating.
Why does that matter?
It matters because that late September game between Atlanta and New Orleans occurred on the same night as a presidential debate. So, here we have a direct apples to apples comparison of how a primetime NFL game performed by itself with no other major sports or political competition, versus how a primetime MNF game performed when forced to share the evening with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
The amazing, incredible, Earth-shattering difference between the two is three-tenths of a percent. That scintilla of a percentage is far, far less than the universally accepted margin of error in most professional polling.
Granted, the Jets are an abomination of a football team, who, based on the way they played on Monday night could have lost to Alabama. Yet, they still play in the nation’s top media market, a market much bigger than Atlanta and New Orleans combined. Not to mention that Indianapolis ranks 28 spots higher than New Orleans in terms of TV markets, and Monday night marked Andrew Luck’s return from concussion protocol which should have added to the game’s appeal. Given all that, the Jets-Colts game should have beaten the Saints-Falcons by at least one full share.
Instead, the game fetched the ratings equivalent of a giant goose egg and had no election coverage to blame for it. Roger Goodell and his buddies need a new talking point.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter: @themightygwinn