Yesterday, we wrote a full breakdown of NFL Ratings for Week 1. With the exception of Fox’s Sunday afternoon coverage, they were down across the board as cable news viewership surges. The NFL has a couple variables that should be boosting viewership this season: First, over a million fans who would normally be at games every week could now be watching at home. Second, for the first time ever out of home viewership is tabulated into next-day Nielsen ratings.
Using the household rating, of which the measurement parameters are constant from last year, we can get some sense of how much of an impact out of home viewership makes in the numbers. The top chart is viewership, measured in millions, where out of home is measured this year and was not in 2019. The bottom chart is household rating:
A few notes:
1) I wasn’t able to find the household rating for Monday Night Football this season yet, but that will be public next Tuesday at the latest.
2) NBC’s Sunday Night Football had the least differential between viewership change and household rating change, at under 3 percent. The rest of the packages ranged from a six percent to a nearly 10 percent difference. The biggest difference was in Sunday late afternoon, where a nearly eight percent rise in viewership year-over-year for Saints-Bucs was actually a slight decline in household rating.
3) None of this is to imply that out of home viewership is illegitimate. After all, these are indeed people who are watching the games! However, it is a variable that makes it more difficult to compare year-over-year as a quantified number of exactly how many people are watching is a lot easier to understand than the household rating number.
4) As you can plainly see, the narrative for the NFL ratings after Week 1 would be even worse without out of home viewership.
5) Just having the NFL is a blessing for fans and networks. Think back to 2-3 months ago, before the NBA first pulled off their bubble and even after that, as myriad Marlins tested positive for Covid-19, when the world thought that bubbles were the only way sports would work. The NFL isn’t dying, and it’s going to get ginormous rights renewals with all their network partners, but the league should at least be minorly concerned about the early season popularity drop.