The NFL got off to a slow start on Thursday night. Much like the NBA, it appears the league could be in for a ratings drought this year.
The Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans drew 19.3 million viewers for the first game of the NFL season.
That number is down more than 12 percent from the 22 million viewers that the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears were able to pull in for the opening game of the 2019-20 season.
The Chiefs and Texans just barely beat out 2018’s rain-delayed first game of the season between the Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons, which pulled in just 19 million viewers.
Factoring in NBC’s totals from digital platforms, which were up 55 percent year-over-year, this season’s debut did a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 20.3 million. That marks an 11 percent decline from what the Packers and Bears did in 2019.
While NBC easily won the night with those ratings, there is still cause for concern given that sports ratings are continuing to decline with seemingly no end in sight.
Somehow everyone was pissed. https://t.co/gab6ObPSW6
— Game 7 (@game7__) September 11, 2020
Many thought that people staying home more in COVID-19 times and the continued legalization of sports gambling would result in a ratings boon for the NFL.
Early returns show that is not the case.
Thursday night’s big showdown featuring two of the brightest young stars in the NFL — Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson — went up against Game 4 of the Los Angeles Lakers vs Houston Rockets series on TNT, Game 3 of the Las Vegas Golden Knights vs Dallas Stars series on NBCSN, and the US Open on ESPN.
The Lakers and Rockets ultimately drew 2.496 million viewers, Las Vegas and Dallas pulled in 790,000 viewers, and the US Open attracted 1.545 million viewers.
This is gonna be a fun season. https://t.co/9B1IdhbAlG
— Game 7 (@game7__) September 10, 2020
The NFL has some fascinating match-ups scheduled for the rest of Week 1.
The Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings will fight it out for NFC North supremacy all year long, and their opening week battle will speak to where both franchises currently stand.
Last year, the Cleveland Browns folded under hefty expectations. This season, they return all the same talent, except are flying under the radar. Their dance with Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens will be one to watch.
The new-look New England Patriots are due to take on the Miami Dolphins. At the very least, seeing how Cam Newton is able to run Bill Belichick’s offense should be enough to attract a decent amount of eyeballs.
Tom Brady and Drew Brees will square off when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints clash on Sunday afternoon.
And of course there is still America’s team, the Dallas Cowboys, set to take on the Los Angeles Rams late Sunday evening on NBC. The storylines for that one are endless.
It could just be that Chiefs vs Texans, which most correctly predicted Kansas City would win handily, was not particularly enthralling for potential viewers. But if the rest of the Week 1 outings ultimately disappoint in the way that game did ratings-wise, it could mean real trouble for the NFL going forward.