The wacky world of the NFL scheduling continued in Week 6. Thanks to the trials of playing a season during these unprecedented times, it seems like every week the schedule has something new to offer. This week, NFL fans were deprived of — or spared from, depending on your perspective — a Thursday night game. Instead, the schedule once again featured multiple Monday Night Football games. How do the ratings for the NFL stack up in Week 6? As with last week, it’s sort of a mixed bag.
NFL Week 6 Ratings: No Thursday game, but still viewers
Thanks to last week’s shuffling of the NFL schedule, there was no Thursday Night Football matchup this week. The game that was supposed to air this week, Kansas City at Buffalo, was moved to a Monday afternoon slot to avoid Buffalo playing two games in four days. But the absence of a game didn’t mean the NFL’s flagship station was going to lay dormant. Instead, NFL Network re-aired last week’s Raiders/Chiefs game.
The results? Surprising! As with everything in this environment, ratings were down compared to last years’ in-season rebroadcast (Rams vs. Cowboys). That rebroadcast pulled in 769k viewers. Thursday’s rebroadcast kicked off the NFL’s Week 6 ratings with 609k viewers. While not anywhere near the numbers of last year’s rebroadcast, that 609,000 number is surprisingly close to the number of viewers (698K) who tuned into ESPN’s broadcast of the Arkansas State vs. Georgia State tilt.
Strong Sunday afternoon for local markets
In an encouraging sign for the NFL on the ratings front, Week 6 showed positive gains in many of the league’s biggest local markets. Across the league, ratings for Week 6 were up in 12 of the markets that played on Sunday.
On Fox’s side of the Sunday afternoon NFL ratings battle, their slate featured a massive market, the Chicago area. The Bears faced off against the Carolina Panthers, and the Chicagoland fans showed out in a big way for their team. It hasn’t always been pretty for the Bears, and Sunday was no exception. However, Nick Foles has the team sitting pretty in the NFC North with a 5-1 record, and the ratings certainly reflect the team’s good fortune. Locally, the Bears game pulled in a season-high 28.9 rating.
Not to be outdone, the CBS slate pulled in their own season-high ratings with their AFC North division showdown between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns. The victory was never in question for the Steelers, as Ben Roethlisberger and company cruised to a decisive 38-7 win over Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr., and the Browns. Much like their team, the Steelers fans gave CBS a decisive win in the Pittsburgh local market with a season-high 36.6 rating.
Pittsburgh wasn’t the only massive market for CBS and the NFL in the Week 6 ratings battle. The Tennessee Titans played an overtime thriller against the Houston Texans in a battle for bragging rights in the AFC South. There were points aplenty on Sunday, with the Titans coming out on top 42-36, thanks in no small part to Derrick Henry’s massive day on the ground. It was also a massive day for the ratings in Nashville, with the game pulling in a season-high 25.6 rating.
Not all good news for NFL ratings
Not everything was sunshine and rainbows for CBS in Week 6, however. The NFL can’t be happy with just how poorly the two New York teams are performing this season, and that poor performance was reflected in the Week 6 ratings. The Jets, winless on the season, remained so on Sunday with an embarrassing loss to the Miami Dolphins. The Jets managed to win the turnover battle, the time of possession battle, and held the Dolphins to 1-of-9 on third down, yet still managed to lose by 24.
It was a loss on the field for the Jets, and it was a loss for the NFL in the Week 6 ratings for the largest market in the league. In an unfortunate double-whammy for the league, the NFL’s other New York team fared similarly in the Week 6 ratings. Though the results on the field were better for the Giants, the ratings were only marginally so. While the Jets pulled in a 5.5 rating for their efforts, the Giants managed a 9.8 in their victory over the Washington Football Team.
On a national scale, the NFL ratings in Week 6 were once again somewhat of a mixed bag. Fox had the double-header this week, with most of the viewing audience getting the aforementioned Bears/Panthers game. While the game was a hit for the Chicago viewing market, it was down nationally over this time last year by 13% with a 6.7 rating.
The second game in the Fox doubleheader was the rare Brady vs. Rodgers matchup. More than 22 million people tuned in to watch the Tampa Bay Bucs take it to the Packers. While the total number of viewers for this game was up 4% from last year, the rating fell by 2% to 11.9. It was the same story over on CBS, where their various games for the day pulled in more viewers (16.7 million, up 2%) but a lower rating (8.9, down 6%).
Sunday Night Football slide continues
One of the biggest trends we’ve seen this season in the NFL from a ratings perspective is the Sunday Night Football slide. That trend continued for the NFL and NBC with the Week 6 ratings. This week’s SNF game featured two California teams, as the Los Angeles Rams faced upstate rivals, San Francisco.
Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers came into the game still licking their wounds, both metaphorical and physical, from a Week 5 thrashing at the hands of the Dolphins. On the other hand, Jared Goff and the Rams strolled in fresh off an easy victory in Week 5 against Washington. In the battle for both NFC West and California bragging rights, the 49ers came out on top, getting back into the win column with a 24-16 victory.
While the 49ers entered the win column, the same cannot be said for the ratings. While Sunday Night Football continues to be the dominant primetime event, the ratings continue to slide week-over-week. With 12.6 million viewers tuning in, the game pulled in a 7.1 rating. Both numbers down more than 10% over last year’s effort.
The low turn-out is likely due to an unfortunate turn of events for the NFL, but a pleasant one for fans in the Los Angeles market. Sunday Night Football has had a rough string lately, running up against the NBA Finals and now Game 7 of the NLCS. A game which happened to feature another LA team, the Dodgers.
Roughly 9.7 million viewers tuned in to watch the Dodgers cap off an incredible comeback, punching their ticket to the World Series after falling behind 3-1 in the series against the Atlanta Braves. That number was a four-year high for either league championship and surely impacted the SNF ratings.
Monday Night bounce-back
In what many fans believe should be the new normal in the NFL, we were once again treated to not one, but two Monday Night Football games. Thanks the the NFL needing to move the Kansas City vs Buffalo game, previously scheduled for Thursday, both Fox and ESPN got a taste of the ratings juggernaut that is MNF.
While the conditions in Buffalo were poor for the game, the ratings were anything but. Fox got to take home the title of “most-watched program of the day” with more than 12 million viewers tuning in. ESPN, while falling short of those numbers, saw an increase this week in both their viewership and ratings numbers.
The regularly-schedule MNF tilt featured “America’s Team” the Dallas Cowboys in their first full game without starting quarterback Dak Prescott, going up against Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals. The prospect of a backup quarterback didn’t keep fans from tuning in, as viewership rose by roughly 600K this week, to 11.32 million and a rating of 3.6 in the 18-49 demographic, up from last week’s 3.32. All things considered, a strong week for the NFL.