SBD/Issue 20/Sports Media

Fox, NBC, CBS Seeing Record NFL Audience; ESPN Sees Small Decline

Nine NFL game telecasts have topped the 20 million-viewer mark this season, a new record through four weeks for the league. NBC leads all NFL TV partners, and is also seeing the most-viewed NFL primetime package through four weeks since ABC in in '96. The net averaging a 13.7 rating and 22.9 million viewers for its "SNF" franchise. The average include Cowboys-Redskins from Week One, the most-viewed "SNF" game ever, as well as the Vikings-Saints Thursday opener, the most-viewed NFL Kickoff game ever. "SNF" also stands as the top primetime show on all of TV in viewers and all key adult and male demos. Fox is averaging an 11.7 rating and 19.7 million viewers for its Sunday afternoon telecasts, the net's best start ever for the NFC TV package. Fox' two national window telecasts have averaged a 15.2 rating and 25.6 million viewers, buoyed by the Week One Packers-Eagles game. That stands as the most-viewed Week One Sunday telecast on record. Both of Fox' national window metrics are up 9% from the start of last season. CBS is averaging a 11.3 rating and 18.699 million viewers, the net's best marks through four weeks since gaining the AFC TV package in '98. It is also the highest viewership mark for the AFC TV package since '87. The net's two national window telecasts have averaged a 15.1 rating and 25.1 million viewers, up 19% for both metrics from a 12.7 rating and 21.0 million viewers last year at the same point.

ESPN SEEING SLIGHT DROP: ESPN is the one network seeing a decline in ratings and viewership through four weeks of NFL coverage. "MNF" is averaging a 9.3 U.S. rating and 14.786 million viewers, down 5% and 6%, respectively, from a 9.8 rating and 15.684 million viewers last year. The net's '09 figure include the most-viewed telecast in the history of cable, the Week Four Packers-Vikings game that featured Vikings QB Brett Favre's first game against his former team. This year's figures, however, remain up 16% and 17%, respectively, from an 8.0 U.S. rating and 12.6 million viewers at the start of the '08 season (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).

NFL GAME VIEWERSHIP THROUGH WEEK FOUR
NET
'10
(000)
'09
(000)
1-YR
% +/-
'08
(000)
2-YR
% +/-
NBC*
22,853
20,756
10.1%
17,814
28.3%
Fox
 19,677
17,196
9.8%
15,192
29.5%
CBS
18,699
15,671
19.3%
15,221
22.9%
ESPN
14,786
15,684
-5.7%
12,972
14.0%
NOTE: * = Includes Thursday night NFL Kickoffs. The '08 NFL Kickoff also started early (7:00pm ET) to accommodate coverage of the Republican National Convention.

DYNAMIC DUO: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes the "onscreen casting" of newly acquired Vikings WR Randy Moss and Favre "could be a ratings booster rocket at just the right time." It was "already logical that the league's TV schedule would feature Favre," and in the coming weeks the NFL is "doing just that." The Vikings play the Jets on "MNF" this week and then the "mediagenic Dallas Cowboys in Week 6 in Fox's featured late-afternoon Sunday slot." There then is the "classic Favre vs. those unappreciative Green Bay Packers in NBC prime time in Week 7," followed by a game that "sell itself: Moss showing up in New England to try to show up his old team on Fox in Week 8" (USA TODAY, 10/7).

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