If you’re in the camp that thinks the NFL’s TV ratings decline this season has been powered primarily by bad games, the ratings from Thanksgiving suggest you may be on to something.
This year, the two afternoon games were good games and the prime time game was a blowout. And so it’s no surprising that the two afternoon games saw their ratings increase from last Thanksgiving (when the two afternoon games were blowouts), while the prime time game saw its ratings decrease from last Thanksgiving (when the prime time game was a good one).
In the early game, CBS got a 14.4 overnight rating for Lions-Vikings, a close game that was decided on a last-second field goal. That’s up 5 percent from the 13.7 overnight rating for the early game last year, when the Lions beat the Eagles in a blowout.
In the second game, FOX got a 15.6 overnight rating for the Dallas-Washington game, which was competitive into the fourth quarter. That’s up 2 percent from the 15.4 overnight rating last year, when the Panthers blew out the Cowboys.
And in the prime time game, NBC got a 10.8 overnight rating for the Steelers blowing out the Colts. That’s way down from the 14.6 overnight rating for last year’s prime time game, a last-minute Bears win over the Packers.
So when the early games were close and competitive, fans gathered around the television. When the late game was a blowout, fans opted to get some tryptophan-induced sleep or even — gasp! — turn off the TV and talk to their families.
For the NFL, there’s a lesson to be learned here about quality of play. Unfortunately, no one seems to agree on which steps need to be taken to improve quality of play.