The ratings of National Football League games on the
broadcast networks, both on Sunday afternoons and in primetime, through the
first 12 weeks of the season are down in the low- to mid-single digits,
according to Nielsen data.
But the commissioner is hardly ready to call an audible.
Despite the declines, NFL telecasts still top all other programming on the
broadcast networks in terms of total viewers and in most demo categories.
Speaking of which, it's not just the Super Bowl that brings
sizable amounts of women to football telecasts. While a larger of percentage of
women do watch the big game, weekly primetime NFL telecasts on NBC are drawing
significant numbers of women as well. And that takes quite a bit of the sting
out of any losses.
Those losses are still worth noting. Looking at the three
networks' NFL ratings as compiled by media agency Carat's research department,
NBC's Sunday Night Football ratings are down 2% in households to a 12.5
from a 12.8, down 6% in the 18-49 demo to an 8.1 from an 8.6 and down 4% among
men 18-49 to an 11.1 from an 11.6. The NBC ratings include a Thanksgiving night
game the network telecast for the first time this season.
Ratings for Fox's Sunday afternoon games are down 4% in
households to an 11.6 from a 12.1, down 7% in adults 18-49 to a 7.0 from a 7.5,
and down 6% in men 18-49 to a 9.6 from a 10.2.
Ratings for CBS' Sunday afternoon games are down 2% in
households from 10.9 to 10.7, down 5% among adults 18-49 from a 6.6 to a 6.3
and down 4% among men 18-49 from 8.9 to an 8.5.
Adding this past Sunday night game's ratings to NBC, SNF
is averaging 19.8 million viewers, a 7.6 18-49 rating, a 6.6 18-34 rating and
an 8.5 25-54 rating, placing it first among all primetime programming in each
of those categories. (The Fox and CBS NFL ratings from this past Sunday will
not be available until later this week.)
NBC's SNF is averaging a 5.0 rating among women 18-49,
tying it with ABC's Grey's Anatomy for the fourth most-watched program
of the week in broadcast primetime among that female demo group. Only Modern
Family and The Big Bang Theory, both with a 5.7, and TheVoice with a 5.6, are rated
ahead of it in that female demo.
Among women 25-54, SNF
ranks fifth with a 5.6 demo rating, behind Big Bang (7.1), Modern
Family (6.7), The Voice (6.4) and Grey's Anatomy (6.0).
And SNF also does
well when moving into the women 35-54 demo. Only Big Bang, Modern Family,The Voice,
NCIS, Two and a Half Men, Grey's Anatomy and Criminal Minds have a
higher rating than the 5.8 that SNF
is averaging in that demo.
While Fox does not televise NFL games in primetime, it does
air the Sunday night NFL wrap-up show The OT that sometimes runs into
the first hour of primetime, so Nielsen measures it. The OT, which is
averaging 11.8 million viewers this season and a 4.6 18-49 demo rating also
reaches lots of women, although not as many as SNF. Still, The OT is averaging a 2.9 rating among women
18-49 and a 3.4 among both women 25-54 and 35-54.
So marketers who are being guaranteed ratings based on an
overall age demo or a male demo can get a significant number of female eyeballs
as a bonus. That could be why more and more female-targeted brands are
beginning to move into sports telecasts.
With just four weeks left in the season, NBC could very well
match its viewer and ratings totals from last season -- depending on the
matchups. For the 2011 season, SNF averaged 20.6 million viewers and an
8.0 18-49 rating, so NBC's current 19.8 million and 7.6 demo rating is not far
The other positive of football telecasts for
advertisers of course is that the games are mostly watched live with little
delayed viewing, so the likelihood of commercials being watched is much higher
-- always a plus for marketers.