After plenty of evidence suggesting not just a flattening but a decline in the American TV appetite for NFL prime-time football, the trend abruptly changed on Thursday night, boring and non-competitive game notwithstanding.
The NFL has sent out the perfunctory chest-thumping press release touting the dominance of live pro football action against scripted and other pre-taped/watch-whenever programming on other broadcast networks, a victory that has become a given in today’s world. In reality, the NFL is competing only against its past performance (and The Walking Dead); this week, the numbers finally have gone up.
For Twitter, the spike was significant. The average audience for Texans-Patriots via the prominent (anti)social media platform was 327,000. That’s an increase of 34 percent over the Week 2 Thursday night game between the Jets and Bills.
The TV numbers also were strong, with a 14-percent increase over Week Two and a four-percent climb over the Week Three Thursday night game (Washington-Giants) from 2015.
In all, the most recent Thursday night game had an average total viewership of 17.9 million across all platforms.
That’s a good way to start a week destined to end with an ugly Monday night performance in the TV ratings. Apart from the reality that the Falcons-Saints game will be broadcast on cable at a time when viewers are cutting cords like a producer trying to fit Free Bird onto a 45, the first presidential debate conflicts with the game. Whatever the low-water mark is for NFL prime-time viewership, chances are that Monday’s numbers will be even lower.