SBD/Issue 20/Sports Media

NFL Game Viewership Up 14% Through First Four Weeks

NFL game telecasts are averaging 17.383 million viewers across NBC, Fox, CBS and ESPN through the first four weeks of the regular season, the highest audience number for the league in 20 years. The number of average viewers is up 14.3% from 15.204 million viewers through the same period in '08. Each of the NFL's four broadcast partners is seeing increases in audience, with NBC, Fox and ESPN up double digits. "SNF" is seeing the franchise's best start since NBC reacquired NFL rights prior to the '06 season. "MNF" telecasts on ESPN have garnered cable TV's four largest audiences of the year. Fox is also off to the net's best start since it gained NFL rights in '94. NFL games have now accounted for 10 of the most-viewed sporting events on TV since Super Bowl XLIII last February, while game broadcasts have been the highest-rated telecasts of the week 92% of the time in local markets, up from 88% at the same point last season (THE DAILY).

NFL GAME VIEWERSHIP THROUGH WEEK FOUR
NET
VIEWERS (000)
'08 (000)
% +/-
NBC ("SNF")*
20,756
17,814
16.5%
Fox
17,855
15,167
17.7%
ESPN ("MNF")
15,684
12,972
20.9%
CBS
15,671
15,221
3.0%
NOTE: * = Includes Thursday night NFL Kickoff. '08 NFL Kickoff also started at 7:00pm ET to accommodate coverage of the Republican National Convention.

PREGAME/HIGHLIGHT SHOWS: NFL pregame/highlight shows are also off to a strong start through four weeks. NBC's "FNIA" is averaging 8.369 million viewers in the 7:30-8:15pm ET window, which is up double digits from the same point last season. CBS' "The NFL Today" is the only pregame show seeing a decline to date. ESPN's "Monday Night Countdown" is seeing a double-digit increase, as is the second season of "NFL GameDay Morning" on the NFL Network. The NFL Net's show expanded to a four hours on Sunday mornings, up from a two-hour show during its debut season in '08.

NFL PREGAME/HIGHLIGHT SHOW VIEWERSHIP THROUGH WEEK FOUR
SHOW
VIEWERS (000)
'08 (000)
% +/-
"Football Night in America" (NBC)
8,369
7,336
14.1%
"Fox NFL Sunday" (Fox)
4,300
4,142
3.8%
"The NFL Today (CBS)
3,640
3,718
-2.1%
"Monday Night Countdown" (ESPN)*
3,047
2,377
28.2%
"Sunday NFL Countdown" (ESPN)
2,726
2,602
4.8%
"NFL GameDay Morning" (NFL Net)**
305
266
14.7%
NOTES: * = First edition of "Monday Night Countdown" aired from 5:00-7:00pm ET due to "MNF" doubleheader. Normal editions air for 90 minutes. ** = "NFL GameDay Morning" aired for only two hours at the start of the NFL season in '08, then for three hours the final three weeks of the season.

FOOTBALL FEVER: The Milwaukee market has averaged a 38.2 local rating for Packers games so far this season, ranking third in the NFL behind a 48.0 local rating in Pittsburgh for the Steelers and a 42.3 in New Orleans for the Saints. Meanwhile, Vikings telecasts are averaging a 35.8 local rating in the Minneapolis-St. Paul market, up 32.1% over a 27.1 through the same period last year, marking the "second-biggest jump in the NFL" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 10/9)....Texans telecasts in Houston are averaging a 16.3 local rating through four games, up 18.1% over a 13.8 last year, marking the "sixth-best percentage increase in the league," though the figure "probably deserves an asterisk, given Hurricane Ike's impact on the 2008 season" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/9)....Rams games are averaging a 16.6 local rating in St. Louis through four games, up 11.4% from a 14.9 rating for the same period last year. But in St. Louis, Dan Caesar writes with the Cardinals in the MLB Playoffs and the Blues "off to a hot start and a bevy of home-game blackouts looming down the line, interest in the Rams figures to subside" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/9).

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