TV Ratings: Thursday NFL Returns to CBS — Both Up and Down

The game rises from the 2016 Bears-Packers matchup but dips from the network's opener that year.
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The NFL kicked off what's likely to be an eventful week four of its young season last night, with the broadcast return of Thursday Night Football.

Early numbers have the Green Bay Packers-Chicago Bears game averaging a 9.9 overnight rating among households on CBS and the NFL Network. That's up 6 percent from their comparable matchup last season, though down 14 percent from the CBS opener last season — which took place weeks earlier in the season. That dip, if you're the U.S. president, can be credited to league members exercising their constitutional right to protest and demonstration during the national anthem. (Or, possibly, because it was a blowout game.)

Thursday's game really is a rough one to judge, mostly because it was a false start of sorts — play was suspended early in the first quarter when lightning threatened Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. And that was after the Packers had already scored two unreturned touchdowns. The Packers ultimately earned a W, 35-14, after the 45-minute delay.

This football season has been a mixed bag with ratings, something people were talking about before President Donald Trump referred to the black players who take a knee during "The Star Spangled Banner" as "sons of bitches." Thursday's game presented a new scenario, one where players linked arms during the song. That moment, by the way, was televised.

The start of the NFL's week four comes as ratings are still a little down for the season, though the recent third week saw a small 3 percent boost from 2016. And, since its launch a few years back, the Thursday night game hasn't exactly been the league's shining ratings star — though everyone still wants a piece of it. Like a child of acrimonious divorce, Thursday Night Football doesn't really have a consistent home. The start of the season aired on the NFL Network exclusively, and the next few weeks will see it simulcast on CBS, the NFL Network and Amazon until NBC tags in later this season.

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