NFL bounces back from down TV ratings and Trump attacks with strong opening weekend
Despite repeated attacks by the president, the NFL had a pretty good weekend from the TV ratings perspective.
Once again, President Trump derided the NFL over the weekend about declining television ratings, pointing to the somewhat disappointing results of Thursday night's NFL kickoff game between the Eagles and Atlanta Falcons.
But the NFL actually had a pretty good weekend from a television-ratings perspective. It saw increases in three of Sunday's four NFL windows, according to information provided by NBC, CBS and FOX.
CBS had its best opening NFL single-header rating in three years, drawing an average overnight household rating of 10.6 on its slate of five regional single-header games. That's up 23 percent compared to CBS' slate of games in Week 1 last year.
FOX averaged an 8.9 overnight rating on its 1 p.m. regional games, up six percent compared to last year. In its 4 p.m. national window, which featured the Carolina Panthers defeating the Dallas Cowboys, Fox garnered a 15.7 overnight rating, up slightly from last year.
In fact, Panthers-Cowboys drew the second-highest overnight Week 1 ratings in that national window since 2014, and it's the seventh-highest number since 2004, according to Sports Media Watch.
On NBC's Sunday Night Football, the Green Bay Packers' thrilling 24-23 comeback win over the Chicago Bears drew a 14.4 overnight rating, down 9 percent from last year's Sunday opener between the Cowboys and New York Giants.
But the news isn't all bad for NBC. Despite the Bears heading into halftime with a 17-0 lead and Aaron Rodgers being carted off the field with a knee injury, last night's game was up 7 percent from Thursday night's game between the Eagles and Falcons. And it's the highest overnight rating for a primetime Packers game since 2015.
NBC's ratings will also be boosted by streaming numbers, which were expected later Monday.
"It's a good sign and if I'm the NFL I'm cautiously optimistic," said Robert Seidman, a TV ratings expert who runs the popular Sports TV Ratings website. "But, it's a long season and I'm more interested in 'what's the trend after 5 or 6 weeks?' when all the schedule/matchup related differences are more normalized year-to-year."
While there has been loud criticism of the NFL by Trump over players' protests of racial injustice during the national anthem, the ratings declines are mostly being driven by viewers eliminating their cable subscriptions in favor of streaming services. Starting this season, the NFL is allowing fans to stream in-market and primetime games live on their phones and tablets using the NFL Mobile or Yahoo Sports apps, in an attempt to bolster its streaming ratings.