‘Monday Night Football’ Debut Ratings Dip From Hurricane Irma-Disrupting 2017

Dominic Patten
Deadline

ESPN made its official start of the new NFL season last night with an annual Monday Night Football doubleheader that saw the Detroit Lions and the Oakland Raiders decimated on live television.

The much-touted new defense of the Los Angeles Rams wasn’t quite all that and a bag of chips, but the Rams’ 33-13 victory over the Raiders in the later game was certainly convincing. With new team members in the broadcast booth for the Disney-owned sports cabler, that West Coast matchup followed the Lions taking a 48-17 pounding at the hands of the New York Jets.

The start of the 49th season of MNF and ESPN took a small ratings hit last night compared with incomplete early numbers last year. That’s a hard fact for the NFL coming after Thursday’s 2018-2019 kickoff game on NBC fell to a near decade viewership low and Sunday Night Football stumbled in its season premiere.

With a 7.5 metered market result for the Jets-Lions and a 7.0 in the early metrics for Rams-Raiders, last night’s MNF season opener slipped 4% from the doubleheader of September 11, 2017. That doubleheader was down double digits from the 2016 opener, which was down hard from the year before.

While at first glance the difference between this year and 2017 might seem small, it is important to remember because of Hurricane Irma last year not all markets reported in with early numbers. So, the results for the Minnesota Vikings’ 29-19 win over the New Orleans Saints and the Denver Broncos’ 24-21 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers were based on only 48 of the usual 56 markets that make up the first round of ratings. It means the ratings decline for this year might be more in line with the overall sagging response the NFL and its various broadcasters have seen the past couple of years.

Still, it seems pretty clear ESPN will win Monday on all of TV, even with the likes of Bachelor In Paradise on ABC and the season finale of American Ninja Warrior on NBC. Of course, ABC stations in LA, Detroit and San Francisco all carried the NFL games, as did the CW in New York.

Next week’s MNF sees the Seattle Seahawks taking on the Chicago Bears in the Windy City. While we wait for that, here’s a stat or two for you: The Jets-Lions game Monday peaked with a strong 9.0 rating in the 9:30-9:45 PM ET time period, and the Rams-Raiders topped out with an 8.7 in the 10:45-11 PM ET slot.

And today, on the 17th anniversary of the attacks of 9/11, take a moment to remember and respect those we lost that day and since.

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