NFL Viewership Continues Rocky Start To '16; "MNF" Hit Hard By Presidential Debate
NFL games in primetime are seeing a sharp audience drop through Week 3, while Sunday afternoons are a mixed bag. Fox is the only TV partner seeing an uptick compared to the same period last season. Fox is averaging 20.43 million viewers through Week 3, up 1% from last year. The net was boosted by the Giants-Cowboys game featured in Week 1's national window, as well as Redskins-Giants featured in Week 3's singleheader. The L.A. market has not yet delivered for Fox. The Week 3 Rams-Buccaneers matchup drew a 6.1 local rating in L.A., with the figure being half of what Fox drew for Seahawks-Rams in Week 2. However, Rams-Bucs did have to air up against Vin Scully's final call at Dodger Stadium and SoCal fans watching the Chargers-Colts game on CBS. Meanwhile, CBS is averaging 17.4 million viewers through Week 3, which has included two national windows. That figure is down 5% from 18.26 million viewers at the same point last season. CBS' two national windows are down 5%.
THE NIGHT OF: The NFL's three primetime packages are each seeing double-digit percentage declines to date. NBC continues to lead with an average of 23.0 million viewers, but that figure is down 10% from "SNF" last year, when the net was on a record pace to start the season. But looking at the period of '09-'14, NBC was averaging 23.1 million viewers, so this season's average is on pace with that figure. ESPN's "MNF" is averaging 10.84 million viewers to date, down 19% from the first four games last season and marking the slowest start for "MNF" since ESPN was averaging 10.52 million viewers to start the '07 season. Monday night's first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton put a serious dent in the Falcons-Saints audience. That game finished with 8.05 million viewers, which is easily the least-viewed "MNF" game on record. The next Clinton-Trump debate is set for Oct. 9, which will likely have a serious impact on NBC's Giants-Packers "SNF" audience. Meanwhile, a slow start in Week 2 has led to a 15% decline in "Thursday Night Football" viewership. CBS and NFL Net are combining to average 16.37 million viewers, down 15% from '15, despite the Week 3 Texans-Patriots game seeing an uptick. However, Twitter saw an uptick for it Week 3 "TNF" stream. Pats-Texans averaged 327,000 viewers on Twitter, up 34% from Jets-Bills in Week 2.
NOT QUITE THE SUPER BOWL: The first Clinton-Trump debate finished with 83.8 million viewers across 12 networks, marking the biggest audience on record for a presidential debate, passing the previous mark of 80.6 million viewers for the Reagan-Carter debate in '80. However, the audience for the debate was lower than the last 17 Super Bowls. The debate was around 30 million viewers more than any NFC of AFC Championship audience.