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Volume 24 No. 181
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Is Viewership Drop For NFL Kickoff Game A Harbinger Of Lower Figures For '17 Season?

NBC on Thursday night averaged 21.8 million viewers for the Chiefs-Patriots game, marking the least-viewed NFL Kickoff game since Titans-Steelers drew 20.9 million in ’09. Chiefs-Patriots is down 13% from 25.2 million viewers last year for Panthers-Broncos, and down 20% from 27.4 million viewers for Steelers-Patriots two seasons ago. The game delivered NBC an easy win in primetime, and marked the best audience for any TV program since ABC’s series-clinching Warriors-Cavaliers NBA Finals Game 5 on June 12. Chiefs-Patriots also marked the most-streamed "SNF" game on record for NBC Sports Digital. The average minute audience for the game was 355,000, up 32% from 268,000 for Panthers-Broncos in ’16. While TV viewership was down in the U.S., TSN and CTV in Canada saw their best audience for an NFL Kickoff game since ’09 (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).

NFL KICKOFF AUDIENCE TREND ON NBC
DATE
MATCHUP
RAT.
VIEWERS (000)
'17
Chiefs-Patriots
12.6
21,800
'16
Panthers-Broncos
14.6
25,186
'15
Steelers-Patriots
16.2
27,398
'14
Packers-Seahawks
15.5
26,913
'13
Ravens-Broncos
14.9
25,133

INAUSPICIOUS START
: THE MMQB's Peter King writes the viewership decline for Chiefs-Patriots "should frighten the league, and the partners who pay multi-millions to do the games and to advertise on them." Chiefs-Patriots was well below Panthers-Broncos last year, which suffered from no Peyton Manning, a lack of big markets and the "contentious presidential campaign election siphoning away marginal viewers." It "doesn’t look like" the NFL's ratings issues are "going away" (MMQB.SI.com, 9/11).

IRMA LIKELY WILL IMPACT SUNDAY RATINGS: The NFL expects Hurricane Irma to negatively impact TV ratings from Sunday’s games, though NFL Exec VP/Communications Joe Lockhart would not say whether they would be down from last year, when ratings declined sharply then from the previous year. He said, “We certainly expect Hurricane Irma, the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, will lead, did lead to less people watching. There [are] 4.4 million people without power.” Television ratings for Sundays games are delayed because Nielsen had to shut down a data center in Florida. Sunday’s games also were the first test of the NFL's new pace of game initiatives, which included fewer commercial breaks, split screens between commercials and sideline shots and quicker replay challenges through the use of tablets on-field. Lockhart said eight of the 13 games came in under three hours, though he stressed the point is not game length but flow. Last year the average game took nearly three hours and nine minutes (Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer).