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Volume 25 No. 198
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NFL Week 1 Audience Strong In Afternoon, But Lower In Primetime

NFL Week 1 was hovering near flat in viewership heading into “MNF,” but a 7% drop for ESPN’s doubleheader will likely land the opening weekend in the red compared to ’17. That drop comes despite Week 1 last year being impacted by Hurricane Irma in several markets. The afternoon windows in Week 1 this year actually performed well, but it was the NFL primetime windows that dragged down the average. Fox’ national window on Sunday, which featured Cowboys-Panthers, averaged 23.3 million viewers, up 2% from last year, when Seahawks-Packers was featured on Fox. The net also saw an 11% jump for its regional window. Fox earned a 64% gain on its streaming platforms for NFL regional and national windows (average minute audience: of 216,000 viewers). Meanwhile, CBS drew 17.08 million viewers for its singleheader window on Sunday, marking the net’s most watched Week 1 singleheader since it re-acquired NFL rights ahead of the ’98 season. After the gains for the Sunday afternoon windows, things fell off in primetime. NBC averaged 22.18 million viewers for Bears-Packers on “SNF,” the lowest Week 1 Sunday night game since the same matchup in ’09 (21.1 million viewers). Last year, Giants-Cowboys averaged 24.37 million viewers on the Week 1 “SNF” telecast, despite that window lacking many Florida markets due to the hurricane. "SNF" nonetheless delivered a primetime win for NBC among all telecasts on Sunday -- and for the week ending Sept. 9. "SNF" was almost 12 million viewers higher than the closest non-sports program in primetime last week ("America's Got Talent" at 10.7 million viewers). On Monday night, ESPN averaged 9.96 million viewers for the “MNF” doubleheader, down 7% from last year. The figure this year goes to 10.1 million viewers when Spanish simulcasts are included from ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes. Despite the drop, "MNF" also delivered ESPN a primetime win among all nets -- broadcast or cable -- on Monday (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).

INITIAL THOUGHTS: In N.Y., Andrew Marchand writes ESPN needs to "recognize that putting a third game analyst in a vehicle that goes nearly 30 mph nearly 10 feet off the sideline is a mistake." The gimmick is "kind of a shame," because the new booth of Joe Tessitore, Jason Witten and Booger McFarland had some "really good moments in their debut" during Rams-Raiders on Monday. But the "BoogMobile" is "not worth the hassle or the extra expense, especially since not one more viewer will watch because of it." All it does is "stunt conversation among the trio, while adding little substance" (NYPOST.com, 9/11). SI.com's Jacob Feldman wrote McFarland's "contraption isn't a distraction, which is good, but it's also not totally evident why it's needed at all." Meanwhile, Witten "improved over the preseason, but still has a ways to go before his performances feel natural." Tessitore "kept traffic clear" in his regular season debut, "directing questions and comments to Boog or Witt, but the dialogue rarely reached the level of banter" (SI.com, 9/11). In San Jose, Chuck Barney wrote Witten was "less-than-sizzling." He came across as "stiff, awkward -- and even kind of quiet." There were times that it felt like he "wasn't even present." Meanwhile, McFarland brought the "Gruden-like energy and charismatic oomph" (MERCURYNEWS.com, 9/11). 

ON THE RADIO: In San Jose, Jon Becker wrote Raiders radio play-by-play man Brent Musburger "avoided any real disaster in his first official game." But like the preseason, he still "left his listeners yearning for more," as in "wanting more game details and timelier information, and the sense he knows the team inside and out, the staples of any high-level announcer on the radio." For example, Musburger was heard "mispronouncing Raiders players' names." When the team "changed personnel, Musburger at times failed to mention who was coming in." He has "improved a lot at interjecting the crucial information such as down-and-distances, but he did at times mislead the listener on how well a play was developing." On the plus side, the chemistry between Musburger and his in-booth analyst Lincoln Kennedy "seems strong." The two seem to "enjoy working with one another," and Musburger "seemed to know" just when to call on Kennedy for an opinion (MERCURYNEWS.com, 9/11).