Commentary

Viewership In NFL's First Week Holds Steady, Resembles 2017

Still worried about the NFL football’s TV ratings? The first week of the season won’t back up concern.

Despite all the controversy -- national anthem protests, medical safety issues and a Colin Kaepernick Nike commercial -- a lot of TV viewers watched the games in the first week of the season.

In fact, the numbers came in virtually flat versus the same average game a year ago.

TV viewership -- by way of MoffettNathanson Research -- said all games from “Thursday Night Football,” “Sunday Night Football,” “Monday Night Football" and the Sunday afternoon games -- averaged a Nielsen 16.24 million viewers.

A year ago, the first week NFL games were at 16.27 million viewers. In short, no major drop in viewership.

That wasn't the case a year ago. The first week games in 2017 were down 13% from 2016. Week one games in the years 2014, 2015, and 2016 averaged a Nielsen 19.19 million viewers.

By the end of last season, however, the league narrowed its regular season game TV losses, down 9% in average game viewership. To be sure, nothing is decided yet; it is just the first game of a 16-game regular season.

What does all this mean? So far, a big TV turnoff, expected by some, isn’t happening. NFL stadium attendance? The jury is out as well. We will continue to watch what people do, not what they say.

Many TV consumers may strongly disagree with NFL players not honoring the national anthem, much as professional athletes have done in the past.  As a result, some said they would not watch the games.

But their actions speak otherwise. This isn't unexpected. In many online/phone surveys, asking TV consumers what they intend to watch can yield wild, inconsistent results.

Will they be watching NFL football this season in the 15 million to 17 million average range?

We think so. But all this is just talk. So wait for the data.

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