There was no press release touting the record-low eight-million-person audience generated by Monday night’s Falcons-Saints game on ESPN, which did battle with the first presidential debate. Thursday night’s Dolphins-Bengals game drew a similar audience, and it’s reason for at least a little crowing.
The league has announced that the NFL Network-only game generated a 4.76 household rating and an audience of eight million on all platforms, TV and digital. According to the league, it’s a six-percent increase over the ratings and audiences for last year’s NFLN-only games.
So how does it compare to 2015? For the first time this year, an apples-to-apples look isn’t feasible, because last year’s Week Four games on Thursday night appeared on CBS and NFLN. The Ravens-Steelers game drew a whopping 19.4 million viewers.
This year, the exclusive NFLN games are interspersed among the full schedule; in past years, the NFLN-only games came later in the year.
That dynamic alone would contribute to the lower total numbers for games that were exclusive to the league-owned network, since more of the game involve teams that aren’t vying for postseason positioning.
Next week, Thursday Night Football returns to CBS and NFL Network, along with Twitter. The numbers generated by Cardinals-49ers will be compared to last year’s Week 5 Thursday nighter between the Colts and Texans.