If the NFL wants to reverse last season’s television ratings decline, it’s not off to a great start.
Last night’s Chiefs-Patriots game drew a 14.6 overnight rating on NBC. That’s down from a 16.5 rating for the Panthers-Broncos opener in 2016, and a 17.7 rating for the Steelers-Patriots opener in 2015.
What’s the cause for the decline? That’s a question that many asked last year, and few satisfactory answers were found. One cause is likely that more people were watching news and weather for updates on Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. In fact, ratings for the cable news networks and the weather channel were up by almost exactly the same amount compared to NFL opening night last year as ratings for the NFL were down.
But the reality is that there’s always going to be competing programming, whether it’s hurricanes or politics or entertainment. The NFL needs to figure out how to keep its still-large share of the TV viewing audience from eroding any further.