December 29, 2011 8:30am PT by Erin Carlson
ESPN's 'Monday Night Football' Ratings Slip Nearly 10%
ESPN's mega-successful Monday Night Football franchise has taken a significant hit in the ratings.
According to Nielsen data, the cable sports channel slipped almost 10 percent in general viewership in 2011 for its NFL tentpole telecast's sixth season. It represents quite a drop off from last year when Monday Night Football broke ratings records in season five.
This year, ESPN averaged 13.3 million viewers, a 9.7 cable rating, an 8.4 U.S. rating and 9.59 million households for the 17 "Monday Night Football" airings. In 2010, the network scored a record-setting average cable rating of 10.5, attracting 10.49 million households and 14.7 million viewers.
Despite the drop, the game remains cable's most-watched program since ESPN picked up the primetime franchise from ABC six seasons ago. Here are some 2011 stats: "Monday Night Football" accounted for 13 of cable's highest-rated programs; it's been the No. 1 network on Mondays in the men's 18-to-34 and 18-to-49 demographics; and ESPN ranked first for men ages 25-to-54 on 15 Mondays and No. 1 among adults in that demo for 10 weeks.
The Dec. 26 showdown between the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons resulted in ESPN's fifth-largest audience this season; 15.6 million viewers tuned in to watch Drew Brees break Dan Marino's NFL yardage record for a single season. The game had a 10.6 cable rating and 9.2 U.S. rating and reached 10.5 million households. The Saints-Falcons matchup on Dec. 27, 2010, attracted 19 million viewers, the third-biggest "Monday Night Football" audience ever.