Week 10 of the NFL marked the first weekend of football in the post-election world, and early signs point to a noticeable uptick in TV ratings.
According to NBC, “Sunday Night Football” between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks drew an overnight rating of 14.3 — the best primetime figure since Week 1, a 13% improvement from last season, and the best Week 10 rating in five years.
Similarly, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told Business Insider that ratings for the late afternoon game between the Cowboys and Steelers boasted a whopping 17.8 rating, up from last year’s Packers-Vikings game (17.2).
This is welcome news, to be sure. Underwhelming NFL ratings have been the story of the season, and most prominent among the handful of pet theories to explain the poor numbers has been the election and its 24-hour coverage. In early October, the NFL itself cited the election in a memo sent out to the league’s “media committee” trying to explain the 11% drop in ratings.
The election is now over, and ratings are on the rise, but let’s not be too quick to conflate correlation and causation here. At least not after one good week. A primetime game between the Patriots and Seahawks is a slam dunk destined for good ratings, as is any matchup between two franchises as hugely popular as the Cowboys and Steelers. These games took place the first week after the election, yes, and more viewers tuned in than earlier in the season, yes, but it’s still far too early to chalk this up to much else. It’s certainly possible that the timing just worked out well.
Week 11, on the other hand, will be much more telling. Next week’s Sunday night game features the Redskins and the Packers — certainly not a terrible slate but nothing near the level of intrigue that the Super Bowl rematch between the Patriots and Seahawks provided. The same can be said about the Monday night game between the Texans and the Raiders.
And even when they have been bad, NFL ratings are still massive as compared to other sports leagues. Game 7 of the NBA Finals between the Cavaliers and the Warriors drew a 15.8 rating and 31.0 million viewers. Compare that, again, to the 17.8 rating the Cowboys and Steelers brought in on a Sunday afternoon, a number that will translate to 30-31 million viewers.
With six weeks of regular season football left, ratings will probably continue to rise. Week 10 was a success, ratings-wise, because the games were great. Let’s see what happens when, inevitably, they aren’t.
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