Hey, remember all those stories about the NFL’s television ratings crisis? Those were fun.
On Thursday, the Arizona Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys kicked off the preseason with the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio. Most starters didn’t play, and the starters who received limited snaps probably aren’t recognizable to casual fans. And according to Sports Media Watch, 8.2 million people tuned in to watch the Hall of Fame game.
Sports Media Watch put that number in perspective: The highest-rated game in the NBA playoffs, before the Finals, was 8.1 million. The Major League Baseball playoffs, with both the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians making gripping runs to the World Series, had only one game with better ratings than Thursday’s meaningless Hall of Fame game. When the Cubs clinched their first World Series berth since 1945 in the final game of the NLCS against the fellow big-market Los Angeles Dodgers, it had 9.7 million viewers. Every other MLB playoff game before the World Series had less than 8 million viewers, Sports Media Watch said.
Other outlets like Deadline reported that the overnight Nielsen ratings said the Hall of Fame game drew only 7.8 million, which would push it behind some NBA playoff games. And all NBA Finals and World Series games drew better ratings than the Hall of Fame game, so maybe the NFL really is dying!
The NFL’s ratings dipped a bit last season, but the story was overblown. It shouldn’t be surprising that any television program’s ratings have gone down, considering how people consume media in 2017. The days of an enormous audience sitting down and watching anything are practically over … with the exception of big NFL games.
Just remember this when the latest round of “NFL has a ratings crisis!” stories are written. Once the Hall of Fame game starts getting fewer viewers than a majority of basketball and baseball playoff games, then there might be room for a real discussion.
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