Thursday, 15 Nov 2018
Entertainment

NFL television ratings

After years of declines, NFL television ratings are showing modest gains.

Three of the league's television partners have shown that they are still growing. That is welcome news after graduation 9.7 percent last season and 8 percent in 2016.

"I'm glad the league has turned the corner. The top teams are very excited about high-scoring games, "said Neil Pilson, the former president of CBS Sports.

Pilson said a major ratings of Rams' Jared Goff, Chiefs Patrick Mahomes and Bears Mitchell Trubisky. That has created buzz not only with their teams but throughout the league.

Another factor is that player protests against social and racial injustice during the national anthem. Pilson noted that "a few of those folks who said they were going to stop watching I do not know how many did."

NBC's "Sunday Night Football" package has shown the best improvement with an eight percent increase from last season. It is averaging 19.7 million viewers, compared to 18.3 million last season.

This past Sunday's game between the Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots averaged a league-high 23.7 million, and was the largest prime-time audience on any network since ABC aired the Academy Awards in March. NBC has seen increases all but one week compared to last season.

"We're looking forward to the second half of our schedule, which features many crucial divisional matchups, the Thanksgiving night game, plus the Week 17 flex game. We expect 'Sunday Night Football' to finish atop the prime-time rankings yet again, "NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus said in a statement.

ESPN's "Monday Night Football" is averaging 11,418 million, which is up three percent (11,135 million). Pilson has been critical of scheduling for Thursday and Monday nights in past seasons, but he said the league has made improvements in those areas. ESPN will have one of the branded games of the season on Nov. 19 when Kansas City faces the Los Angeles Rams in Mexico City.

"For years I thought they were burying those two nights but they dramatically improved," he said.

CBS 'Sunday afternoon games are averaging 15.713 million viewers, which is up one last percent (15.528 million). This past Sunday's slate of five games, which was headlined by Pittsburgh at Baltimore, had a 10.0 household rating, which was up 23 percent from the same week last season.

CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus, whose network has Super Bowl 53, has been pleased with advertising sales for the rest of the season and the Feb. 3 game in Atlanta.

"There are a number of very good stories. Kansas City is a team of national interest, and he is one of the big teams – including New Orleans, Pittsburgh and New England – are playing very well, "he said.

Fox's Sunday afternoon coverage is averaging more than CBS at 17,299 million, but this is a decrease (17,414 million).

The only package that has been sharply declined is Thursday Night Football. It is averaging 12.522 million viewers in its first season on Fox, which is down from the 14.134 million on CBS last season. Fox Green is at Seattle (Nov. 15), New Orleans at Dallas (Nov. 29) and the Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City (Dec. 13).

Pilson and McManus both think the league 's overall improvements could carry through the second half. That's even better news for McManus, as he sees a number of potential Super Bowl matchups that would bode well for CBS.

"I'm encouraged. There are a lot of good storylines that will carry throughout, "he said. "With so much going on that is not so bad for a lot of people."

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More NFL AP: https://apnews.com/tag/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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Follow Joe Reedy at www.twitter.com/joereedy

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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