Since NBC kicked off the 2007-’08 National Football League campaign with a showcase pitting the defending champion Indianapolis Colts against last year’s surprise contender the New Orleans Saints, the NFL’s prime-time ratings have been a mixed bag.
The Sept. 6 opener averaged 17.8 million total viewers, giving NBC a definitive win over its broadcast competition on the night. But it also represented a 7 percent drop versus last season’s Steelers vs. Dolphins premiere, which delivered 19.2 million viewers.
While the first six prime-time NFL telecasts of the new season have put up respectable numbers, both NBC and ESPN are off last year’s pace by a discernible margin. With three Sunday Night Football telecasts under its belt, NBC is averaging 17.1 million viewers, down a little over 15 percent from 20.1 million viewers in its three opening telecasts of the 2006 season. ESPN has experienced a parallel drop-off, averaging 10.4 million viewers with its three Monday Night Football telecasts, versus 12.1 million last year, a drop of 14 percent.
For NBC, some of that early erosion may quite simply be chalked up to what happened on the field, as two of its first three games ultimately devolved into blowouts. The Sept. 16 Patriots vs. Chargers game averaged 15.3 million viewers after a peak of around 17 million at 9:30 p.m., according to Nielsen Media Research data. Viewers began to churn away at the half, when the Patriots went up 24-0.
Moreover, NBC may have lost some Northeastern households to ESPN that same night, as its presentation of the final regular season meeting between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox averaged 4.51 million viewers, a leap of 67 percent versus the network’s year-ago Major League Baseball telecast.
[Read On: Media Week]