SBD/October 5, 2012/Media

Night Time Is The Right Time: Primetime NFL Games Seeing Audience Increase

Primetime games are seeing an audience increase through Week 4 of the ’12 NFL season, while the league’s Sunday afternoon telecasts are seeing drops in viewership. NBC’s “SNF” is off to its best start since the net acquired NFL rights prior to the ’06 season. The net is averaging 23.3 million viewers through five games, marking the best viewership for an NFL primetime package since ABC averaged 24.0 million viewers for “MNF” in ’96. NBC’s 14.2 average rating for its games also marks the best primetime package rating since “MNF” in ’99. NFL Network’s early start to live games has also paid dividends. The net is averaging a 5.1 U.S. rating and 7.9 million viewers, marking its best audience through three telecasts since it began airing regular-season games in ’06. The net last season did not begin its slate of games until Nov. 10. Meanwhile, ESPN is seeing gains after a drop-off last season. Through five “MNF” telecasts, the net is averaging an 8.9 U.S. rating and 14.0 million viewers, up 7% in both metrics compared to the same period last year.

SUNDAY AFTERNOONS: Fox’ Sunday afternoon telecasts are averaging an 11.5 rating and 18.9 million viewers through Week 4, down 6% and 8%, respectively, from last year. The net’s two national windows have averaged a 14.4 rating and 24.3 million viewers, compared to CBS' average of a 13.3 rating and 22.0 million viewers. CBS is averaging a 10.2 rating and 16.8 million viewers for all NFL telecasts through Week 4, down 3% and 4%, respectively, from last year.

POWER OF THE PIGSKIN: Despite declines to date for Sunday afternoons, NFL game telecasts rank as the eight most-watched shows on TV since Labor Day and are the only programs -- along with the season premiere of CBS’ “NCIS” -- to draw more than 20 million viewers. “SNF” continues to flex its muscles against primetime competition. The program has won Sunday night for four straight weeks, including the first official week of the ’12-13 TV season. “MNF” remains on pace to be the No. 1 program on cable TV for the seventh straight year.

NFL GAME VIEWERSHIP THROUGH WEEK FOUR
NET
'12 (000)
'11 (000)
'10 (000)
'09 (000)
'08 (000)
NBC*
23,320
23,168
22,853
20,756
17,814
Fox
18,900
20,500
19,677
17,916
15,192
CBS
16,800
17,500
18,699
15,671
15,221
ESPN
13,969
13,087
14,786
15,684
12,972
NFLN
7,895
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
 

NOTES: * = Includes NFL Kickoff, which aired on a Wednesday night this year to accommodate the Democratic National Convention. The '08 NFL Kickoff started at 7:00pm ET on a Thursday night to accommodate coverage of the Republican National Convention.

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