NFL ratings have been a major backstory through the first five weeks of the 2020 season. The political climate in the United States coupled with widespread national anthem protests has only added to this. We’re now seeing more numbers. It’s not great for NFL ratings.
It was billed as one of the better prime-time matchups around the NFL world before the 2020 season started. Unfortunately, the struggles of the Minnesota Vikings heading into their Week 5 game against the Seattle Seahawks on “Sunday Night Football” changed that dynamic a bit.
The game itself was darn good. NFL MVP candidate Russell Wilson led his Seahawks to a comeback win late in the fourth quarter. That apparently didn’t lead to an increase in viewership.
NFL ratings: Vikings-Seahawks “Sunday Night Football” game sees a drop in ratings
According to Deadline.com, 11.42 million viewers tuned in for this conference rivalry game. In terms of NFL ratings, that’s down from the 11.71 million viewers who watched the Philadelphia Eagles’ Week 4 win over the San Francisco 49ers on “Sunday Night Football.”
There’s obviously a reason for this. Game 6 of the 2020 NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat went up opposite of NBC’s broadcast of the NFL game. In the end, LeBron James led his Lakers to their first NBA title in a decade in a game that aired on ABC. According to Deadline.com, 5.6 million viewers tuned into that game. It’s a dramatic increase as it relates to ratings we’ve seen around the NBA world during the playoffs.
As for NFL ratings, Week 5’s game between the Vikings and Seahawks is not great news.
NFL ratings for “Sunday Night Football”
- Week 3 NFL ratings: 24 million viewers
- Week 2 NFL ratings: 14.09 million viewers
- Week 1 NFL ratings: 19.3 million viewers
It does in fact seem like ratings for Week 3 between the Seahawks and Cowboys was somewhat of an outlier as it relates to viewership. After all, America’s Team does tend to draw a broader audience than others. That’s a significant point to make.
NFL ratings for 2020 season are, by and large, down
- The Week 1 NFL Kickoff game between the Chiefs and Texans saw a dramatic decrease in viewership. NBC saw a staggering hit to its ratings.
- It did not get much better for the “Sunday Night Football” opener between the Rams and Cowboys. That saw another dip in viewership compared to 2019.
- ESPN’s season-opening “Monday Night Football“ doubleheader went through a steep drop from its ratings for both games.
NFL ratings have not been all bad news
- The Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens game on “Monday Night Football” in Week 3 on ESPN showed a 32% increase from the Week 3 MNF broadcast in 2019.
- Coming into Week 4, the NFL had the 15 highest-rated shows through the first three weeks of the season. That’s nothing to sneeze at.
The issue here is that we’re not seeing NFL TV ratings on part with previous season. There’s an obvious backdrop to all of this.
President Donald Trump vs. the NFL and national anthem protests
In the midst of his re-election campaign, President Trump has already called for a boycott of the NFL due to the widespread national anthem protests we’re seeing around the league. This political split could very well have impacted NFL ratings.
As for the NFL, it has taken a more progressive approach regarding protests. That started on the heels of the murder of George Floyd by a then-Minneapolis police officer back on May 25. This included NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell coming out in support of national anthem protests and the Black Lives Matter movement. Other prominent figures around the league have also spoken up.
The NFL and its players have also made sure that the 2020 season has included a show of support for the Black Lives Matter movement and the ongoing protests around the United States.
- Ahead of the Week 1 NFL “Thursday Night Football” game, the Houston Texans protested during the national anthem. The Texans and Kansas City Chiefs also took part in a moment of unity.
- The Minnesota Vikings hosted the family of George Floyd and the team donated $5 million to social justice causes.
- Before the first “Monday Night Football” game in Week 1, the Pittsburgh Steelers held a banner in protest during the anthem. That was met with widespread backlash.
It will be interesting to see how NFL ratings compare to previous seasons with the 2020 election cycle coming to an end between President Trump and challenger Joe Biden (D).