Sep 16, 2020 - Sports

NFL dominates top telecasts, but ratings are down from 2019

Illustration of a retro style TV showing a black and white image of a football on a curtained stage

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The NFL is America's most valuable TV property, and it's even more important to networks and advertisers this year with entertainment production largely shut down due to COVID-19.

Driving the news: Last week's top six prime-time shows were all NFL, but despite outperforming all other forms of prime-time programming, Week 1 ratings for the league were down roughly 4% compared to the 2019 season, according to Nielsen ratings cited by CNBC.

  • Some will say this is evidence that player protests and the league's social justice initiatives are turning fans away.
  • Others will say the ratings decline is merely a result of the NFL competing with more leagues than usual due to the reshuffled sports calendar, not to mention cord-cutting.
  • Another theory is that the pandemic — and specifically working from home — has thrown off our schedules and routines, leading to irregular viewing behavior.

My thought bubble: It's way too early to be making sweeping statements about what these ratings mean (especially when we're talking about a 4% decline). Check back in a week or two and we'll talk.

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