7:17am PT by Michael O'Connell
Ratings Actually Improved During NFL's Tumultuous Week 3
Offering at least some anecdotal evidence that the NFL's current ratings predicament is not one with a cut-and-dried cause, Monday Night Football viewership surged on Monday night, helping Week 3 of the season finish in the black, after all.
Across Monday's and all of Sunday's games, even the dampened showing from NBC's marquee primetime showdown, gross overnight ratings for league showdowns weren't off from those of 2016. In fact, they were up a shade — nearly 3 percent. Much thanks here goes to ESPN's Monday franchise, which turned in a whopping 9.3 overnight rating for its best showing.
That makes the Dallas Cowboys-Arizona Cardinals showdown the best MNF performance for the season thus far, and pacing above the same stretch during 2016. As player participation in protests during the national anthem seemed to hit a peak — even Cowboys owner Jerry Jones took a knee in solidarity with his players — this is a huge victory for MNF after a day and full weekend of coverage of President Donald Trump openly criticizing protesting athletes, calling some "sons of bitches."
MNF was also up a lot compared with Week 3 of 2016. But since that game was batted by direct competition against a presidential debate, it doesn't make for much of a comparison.
The week's NFL ratings were a grab bag. NBC's Sunday Night Football, depressed by a crummy game, was off 10 percent from a year ago. And, while Fox's Sunday coverage was also down from 2016, CBS year-over-year coverage was incrementally improved.
For whatever reasons people choose to attribute to the NFL's ratings stumble, now more than a year old and something that will surely continue this season, it is not a problem that can really be diagnosed over a single weekend — let alone one game. And regardless of overall trends, week-to-week showings will live and die by the strength of the matchups.
The coming week only sees the football ratings grab get more aggressive. CBS' string of shared Thursday Night Football games commences after several weekends of smaller performances airing exclusively on the NFL Network.