A huge 'Monday Night Football' boosted NFL ratings, despite Trump comments

Clyde Nash
September 27, 2017

NBC's "Sunday Night Football" experienced its lowest television ratings of the season as NFL players continued to protest during the national anthem.

The president tweeted over the weekend: "NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN". League should back U.S'. Percentages might have been down for a couple weeks, but the National Football League had set such a high bar that it was a prisoner of its own success when comparing ratings to previous years. Last season, the first "Thursday Night Football" game was on CBS.

The "Monday Night Football" matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals made for the strongest ratings for a "MNF" game this season.

The Nielsen figures also don't include numerous Sunday afternoon games that are shown to a regional audience, but not a national one.

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There is a lot of crowing about the year-to-year comparison which sees MNF surging 63% in the early numbers over last year.

WHAT IT MEANS: In a world where TV viewing is increasingly fragmented and more people are watching on devices or saving programs until later, the majority of TV shows have smaller ratings than the year before.

The president may have his theories, but explaining why ratings are down isn't simple. Seven total games on Sunday were decided by one score, one went into overtime and one ended on a game-winning 61-yard field goal. Maybe more people are enjoying good late summer weather and are staying outside more this year.

CBS reported on Monday that Week 3 ratings were up 4 percent from a year ago.

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The "Sunday Night Football" ratings drop comes in the wake of Trump's comments, starting at an Alabama rally on Friday, where he sparked controversy by saying that players who knelt in protest of the national anthem should be "fired". ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown" opened its show with 22 minutes of Trump conversation, creating some "honest television and the best discussion of the issue" yesterday. Or the games are getting slower with replays.

Many of the Washington Redskins took a knee before Sunday night's game against the visiting Oakland Raiders.

But, yes, there is an overall downward trend, one that is more likely a function of changing viewing habits than it is a boycott over players protesting during the national anthem. The Cowboys are regularly the biggest ratings draw the sport has.

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Other reports by Info About Network

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