Cowboys Overkill: NFL Force-Feeding Audiences Cowboys Games To Boost Ratings

Dez Bryant
The Associated Press

If it seems like the NFL has thrust the Cowboys into every conceivable primetime spot in order to reverse the league’s negative ratings trend, that’s because they have. At least according to the Sporting News.

As Michael McCarthy writes, “With the NFL suffering a double-digit ratings drop in 2016, the league and TV partners have been riding Dallas’ hot regular season (12-2) for all its worth.

“The NFL’s 10 percent ratings drop through Week 14 has worried the league and TV partners CBS, NBC, Fox and ESPN, especially since networks had to give back free ads to advertisers. TV numbers have rebounded since the end of the presidential election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. But they’re not back completely. Enter Cowboys Nation.”

McCarthy continues, “If it seems you’re watching the Cowboys play in prime time every week, well, you are. With their 26-20 win over the Buccaneers, the Cowboys played on NBC’s Sunday Night Football for the second straight week. With NBC able to flex in the best matchups, it was the Cowboys’ fourth appearance on the league’s top TV package this season.

“But that’s it. No team can appear on SNF more than four times per season. With SNF ratings down 13 percent this season, NBC probably would flex the Cowboys in every week if they could. How potent are the Cowboys TV-wise? The NFL actually flexed out the original SNF matchup of Steelers vs. Bengals, a rivalry that resembles a street fight more than a football game.”

Just how dramatic an impact have the Cowboys had on NFL ratings, “Four of the five most watched NFL games this season, per Sports Media Watch, are Cowboys games. They are: Cowboys-Redskins on Thanksgiving (35.1 million); Cowboys-Steelers (28.9 million); Cowboys-Packers (28.0 million); Vikings-Lions (27.6 million) and Cowboys-Giants (27.5 million). Heading into Week 15, Cowboys games posted the highest TV rating in seven out of 14 NFL weekends, according to Sports Media Watch.”

After showing how sports talk shows have also used Cowboys content to boost ratings. McCarthy closes with a numbers that show just how much the Cowboys have done for NBC’s Sunday Night Football. McCarthy explains, “Here’s why NBC and the NFL wanted the Cowboys on their top TV package two weeks in a row. NBC said Cowboys vs. Buccaneers pulled a 15.3 overnight TV rating. That was SNF’s 2nd best overnight of the season — behind only the 16.5 for Cowboys vs Giants last week.”

The indecent ratings proposal the networks have made regarding the Cowboys has essentially guaranteed the NFL will avert a ratings disaster. It also means Jerry Jones will likely get whatever he wants at league meetings. Then again, he pretty much always has.

Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter: @themightygwinn