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NFL ratings: Week 2 of ‘Monday Night Football’ up 26 percent

NFL logo during Rams-Bengals game in London.
Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There was obviously a lot of interest in the Raiders’ Week 2 “Monday Night Football” home opener against the New Orleans Saints. Jon Gruden and Co. making their first ever appearance in Las Vegas as major underdogs against a Super Bowl contender.

As the Raiders absolutely shocked the football world with a comeback win, 15.435 million viewers tuned into the ESPN-ABC simulcast. That’s a huge number. It also tells us a story.

NFL ratings for Week 2 of “Monday Night Football” up 26 percent from a season ago

There’s a lot to look at here. First off, the Raiders and Saints going up against one another in the first ever Vegas-based NFL game would naturally draw more interest than a Browns-Jets early-season matchup. Secondly, last season’s Week 2 “Monday Night Football” game was broadcast solely on ESPN. Here’s the break down for this past Monday night in terms of viewership.

  • ABC: 7.984 million
  • ESPN: 7.451 million
  • ESPN 2: 111,000

It is somewhat of an apples to oranges comparison. What it does tell us is that a potential boycott of NFL games due to ongoing national anthem protests might not have had a long-term impact. The ratings we’ve seen throughout the first two weeks of the 2020 NFL season tells us this story.

Related: Super Bowl head coach supports national anthem protests

NFL ratings for Week 1 of “Monday Night Football” compared to Week 2

It was not great news for the NFL as ESPN hosted a doubleheader to open its Monday night slate in Week 1.

  • Steelers at Giants: This game drew 10.8 million viewers on ESPN, down 21% from the early-game opener during Week 1 of the 2019 NFL season
  • Titans at Broncos: Drew 7.7 million viewers, down a whopping 38% from the late game last year.

As you can see, the Raiders-Saints Week 2 game almost drew the same viewership as the doubleheader the previous week. Given the Giants play in North America’s largest media market and with renewed interest in Pittsburgh Steelers football, this is somewhat surprising.

Related: What to make of Week 1 NFL ratings decline

NFL ratings continue to be the king of pro sports

  • This past Sunday night saw the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets draw 3.17 million viewers on TNT for Game 3 of their Western Conference Finals series. It’s a game that saw Anthony Davis win it at the buzzer with a three-pointer.
  • For comparison’s sake, the Seattle Seahawks’ thrilling win over the New England Patriots, airing on NBC and going up against the 2020 Emmy Awards, drew 17.69 million viewers.
  • This has been a major theme for the NFL compared to the ratings we’ve seen for the NBA, MLB and the NHL since pro sports resumed following the COVID-related hiatus.

There’s also another major backstory to all of this as differing political factions attempt to paint a narrative relating to NFL ratings. It’s also no small thing for Commissioner Roger Goodell and Co. given the revenue downturn that the above-mentioned pandemic has created around the league.

Fox reportedly willing to pay up to $2 billion per season to broadcast NFL games

As viewership for NFL continues to be a mixed bag during the early portion of the 2020 season, there’s two other factors. Ad revenue and broadcast rights.

“Fox Corp. is willing to spend as much as $2 billion a year to maintain its rights to National Football League games on Sundays, a huge increase from its current contract, according to people familiar with the matter,” Bloomberg reportedly recently.

That’s up from the estimated $1.08 billion Fox Corp. is reportedly paying the NFL on an annual basis to cover games on Sundays under its current contract.

Let’s just say that the NFL would take a modest decrease (or stagnation in ratings) if it can double the package Fox is paying to broadcast the league’s games on Sundays. Wouldn’t you?

Related: President Trump calls for NFL boycott

Ad revenue plays a role here, too. It has also helped networks who have seen ad revenue plummet during the pandemic.

“NBC Sports has seen greater Sunday Night Football demand this year than it did at this point last year while Fox’s NFL sales are also pacing ahead of previous years, according to a source,” Jason Lynch of Ad Week reported early in September.

This represents a $5 billion boon for networks. It also couldn’t come at a better time.

  • ViacomCBS saw a 27% decline in quarter two advertising revenue.
  • NBCUniversal also posted a 27% decline in Q2 ad venue.

The overriding theme here is that the NFL and its partners want to continue seeing the brand grow. It impacts their bottom lines. Whether that will continue to be the case moving forward in the 2020 NFL season during an election cycle remains to be seen.

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