SBD/December 29, 2011/Media

ESPN's "MNF" Season Audience Down From '10; NFL Net Sees Best Figures Yet

ESPN averaged an 8.4 U.S. Nielsen rating and 13.3 million viewers for its 17 “MNF” telecasts this season, down 8% and 10%, respectively, from last year’s record-setting 9.1 rating and 14.7 million viewers. However, “MNF” remained the most-viewed series on cable TV for the sixth straight year, and drew 13 of cable TV’s 20 largest audiences. “MNF” also delivered ESPN a win during each of its nights among males 18-34 and 18-49. The net’s most-viewed game this season was Redskins-Cowboys on Sept. 26. That game averaged a 10.6 rating and 17.1 million viewers, marking ESPN’s ninth-largest “MNF” audience among its 102 games to date. But the ’11 season also featured two of ESPN’s 10 smallest “MNF” audiences since it acquired the package before the ’06 season. Both games featured the Jaguars, with the team’s Oct. 24 matchup against the Ravens averaging 9.3 million viewers and the Dec. 5 matchup against the Chargers averaging 9.5 million viewers. 
 
ESPN "MNF" AUDIENCE TREND
YEAR
U.S. RATING
VIEWERS (000)
'11
8.4
13,252
'10
9.1
14,657
'09
9.0
14,382
'08
7.6
11,962
'07
7.3
11,230
'06
8.2
12,325
     
MOST-VIEWED "MNF" GAMES DURING '11 SEASON
WEEK
DATE
MATCHUP
RAT.
VIEWERS (000)
3
9/26
Redskins-Cowboys
10.6
17,104
9
11/7
Bears-Eagles
10.7
16,847
15
12/19
Steelers-49ers
10.1
16,677
5
10/10
Bears-Lions
10.3
16,378
16
12/26
Falcons-Saints
9.2
15,638
         
LEAST-VIEWED "MNF" GAMES DURING '11 SEASON
WEEK
DATE
MATCHUP
RAT.
VIEWERS (000)
7
10/24
Ravens-Jaguars
6.1
9,275
13
12/5
Chargers-Jaguars
6.1
9,466
14
12/12
Rams-Seahawks
6.2
9,880
4
10/3
Colts-Buccaneers
7.0
10,837
1
9/12
Raiders-Broncos
7.1
11,109
         

CRAZY EIGHTS: NFL Network averaged a record-setting 3.6 U.S. rating and 6.188 million viewers for its eight regular-season games this season, up 13% and 9%, respectively, from last year’s previous records of a 3.2 rating and 5.7 million viewers. The net was buoyed the Thanksgiving night 49ers-Ravens game, which averaged 10.7 million viewers, marking the net’s most-viewed telecast to date. This season’s slate of games on NFL Net featured three of its top 10 most-viewed games ever and five of the top 15. As with ESPN’s “MNF,” a Jaguars’ game marked the smallest audience among NFL Net’s slate this season, with the Dec. 15 matchup against the Falcons averaging 4.0 million viewers (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).

NFL NETWORK GAME AUDIENCE TREND
YEAR
U.S. RATING
VIEWERS (000)
'11
3.6
6,188
'10
3.2
5,705
'09
3.1
5,548
'08
2.3
3,738
'07
2.7
4,650
'06
n/a
3,100
     
RATINGS TRENDING DOWN AS A WHOLE: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand reported it "looks like regular-season ratings will finish down from 2010." The NFL entering Week 16 "was averaging 10.6% of U.S. households per game broadcast, down 1% from 2010, when the league set modern-era TV records with its best season since 1996." Last weekend's ratings were down "partly from low overall TV viewing Saturday," and this coming weekend's schedule "has weaknesses; Fox's late-afternoon slot consists of two underwhelming games" in Seahawks-Cardinals and Buccaneers-Falcons (USA TODAY, 12/28).

RULES OF THE TRADE: FOXSPORTS.com's Mike Pereira wrote he is "not a fan" of ESPN "MNF" analyst Jon Gruden, not "when I worked for the NFL and not when I was working on the field as a side judge." Gruden was a "loudmouth as a coach who constantly disrespected officials and he is a blowhard in the broadcast booth who spouts off when he doesn't know what he is talking about." During Monday's Falcons-Saints game, Gruden during the second quarter "butchered two plays regarding hits on defenseless receivers." Pereira: "To me, the second you agree to step into the broadcast booth, you agree to learn the rules. It goes with the job. You, as an announcer, have an obligation to know the rules." However, Gruden "didn't know the difference" between the two hits. Pereira wrote, "Gruden said he doesn't understand how games are being officiated? Correctly and consistently in this case. But that's OK, Jon. Just throw the officials under the bus when you don't know the rules. Officials are often criticized and sometimes, deservedly so. Not in this case, however. It is Gruden who deserves the criticism" (FOXSPORTS.com, 12/28).
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