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Post-Election NFL Ratings Improve, But Still Lag 2015

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USA TODAY

 

Viewership for NFL broadcasts during the regular season dipped, though it wasn't as precipitous as it could have been.

Total viewership, according to the league, fell an average of 8% among its broadcast partners in 2016 compared to the 2015 regular season, a rally from pre-election numbers (Weeks 1-9) that showed overall viewership down 14%.

"Presidential elections have always had an impact on our ratings, so we were prepared for a dip this season," Brian Rolapp, the NFL's executive vice president of media, wrote in an email to USA TODAY Sports.

"We're pleased at how our viewership rebounded after the election and are looking forward to what should be a very competitive and exciting postseason."

NBC saw an 11% spike in viewers for its Sunday night broadcasts after Donald Trump won the presidential election Nov. 8. CBS saw a 9% bump after the first nine weeks of the season.

"We came out of the box right after the election with a huge Seahawks-Patriots Super Bowl XLIX rematch on Sunday Night Football," Fred Gaudelli, NBC's SNF executive producer, said in a statement to USA TODAY Sports. "The game was terrific. It was the most-watched Week 10 game in nearly two decades."

Viewership for Weeks 10-17 were off by 1% compared with the same time period a season ago, according to the NFL.

Still, NBC's Sunday night games saw a 12% ratings drop and a 10% drop in viewers compared to 2015, the best year since the network's Sunday night package made its debut a decade ago. Compared to 2014, NBC's ratings are off by about 5% this season.

Fox saw a 6% decline in viewership, and CBS fell by 7% overall year-to-year, but the two networks -- they hold the rights to the Sunday afternoon games -- still put up impressive numbers. Fox and CBS averaged 23.2 million viewers, which bested NBC's Sunday (20.3 million) and ESPN's Monday night (11.7 million) viewership.

Monday Night Football experienced the largest drop (11%) in the 2016 regular season compared to the previous year. The numbers provided by the network include ESPN, streaming and ESPN Deportes viewers.

Outside the overall viewership data compiled by the league, the information dispensed to USA TODAY Sports did not include Thursday Night Football, a package shared by NBC, CBS and NFL Network that was also sometimes simulcast on Twitter.

The focus on the presidential campaign has often been cited as a contributing factor to the ratings decline. The national anthem protests fueled by Colin Kaepernick, frequent commercial interruptions and lackluster matchups in prime-time contests early in the season also have been mentioned.

Some of the ratings highlights from the regular season:

Fox's late-afternoon doubleheader games averaged 24.559 million viewers to make the broadcasts the most-watched program on TV for the eighth consecutive year, the network announced. The network's Week 10 game (Dallas Cowboys vs. Pittsburgh Steelers) scored the highest rating (16.4 with a 30 share).

CBS' late-afternoon doubleheader games averaged 21.8 million viewers. The most-watched contest of the regular season was the New England Patriots vs. the Denver Broncos (25 million viewers with a 14.3 rating and 27 share).

It appears Sunday Night Football will be the No. 1 prime-time show for a sixth consecutive year, edging the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory.

SNF had the best rating among the coveted demographic of 18- to 49-year-olds with a 7.0 rating in prime time on Sundays, besting AMC's The Walking Dead by 25% (5.6 rating).

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photo David Butler II, USA TODAY Sports
 
January 5, 2017
 
 
 

 

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