NFL Ratings Up Overall for Week 1, But There’s a Catch

NFL Ratings
AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

While millions of commuters arrived at work stricken with a “case of the Mondays,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the network executives who broadcast his league were undoubtedly celebrating something that has not been the case for them on many Mondays in recent history, a positive ratings day.

The NFL’s overall Week 1 numbers for the 2018 season saw a marked improvement from last year’s opening weekend.

According to Sports Media Watch:

The Week 1 NFL national window, featuring Cowboys-Panthers in 80% of markets, had a 15.7 overnight rating on FOX Sunday — up a tick from last year (mostly Seahawks-Packers: 15.6) and down 7% from 2016 (mostly Giants-Cowboys: 16.9).

The 15.7 is the second-highest for the Week 1 national window since the 2014 season (mostly 49ers-Cowboys: 17.4). Going back further, it ranks as the seventh-highest since the 2004 season, right in the middle of the pack (14 telecasts).

In primetime, the Packers’ comeback win over the Bears earned a 14.4 on NBC’s Sunday Night Football — down 9% from last year (Giants-Cowboys: 15.8), down 3% from 2016 (Patriots-Cardinals: 14.8) and the network’s lowest Week 1 SNFovernight since the same matchup nine years ago (Packers-Bears: 13.4).

Despite the low, the 14.4 is the highest for a primetime Packers game since the 2015 season.

The growth in ratings numbers is more evident when looking at each individual network:

As for the early afternoon windows, CBS earned a 10.6 overnight for its singleheader coverage — up 23% from last year (8.6), up 4% from 2016 (10.2) and the highest for the Week 1 singleheader since 2015 on FOX (11.7).

FOX scored an 8.8 for regional coverage featuring 49ers-Vikings in a plurality of markets — up 5% from last year (mostly Philadelphia-Washington: 8.4) but down 19% from 2016 (feat. Packers-Jaguars: 10.8).

However, as Sports Media Watch notes, there is an important caveat to all the positive news for the NFL: The fact that Hurricane Irma kept last year’s Week 1 ratings unusually low.

Meaning, the NFL had an incredibly low bar to hurdle when looking at their ratings challenges for Week 1. A better read on where the NFL actually stands, could come in Week 2 or 3, when 2017’s numbers reverted back to their typical form.

Still, despite poor primetime ratings for the season opener and Sunday Night Football, the NFL has to be happy with their opening weekend performance.

Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter @themightygwinn

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