Despite all of the hype and somewhat-manufactured anticipation over the last few months, the 2018 NFL regular season got off to a disappointing start on Thursday night.
The game itself, an 18-12 win by the Philadelphia Eagles, had nearly as many combined penalties (26) as combined points (30), and offense was hard to come by, especially in the first half.
Add in Mother Nature’s impact, and it wasn’t the big show the league was hoping for.
Ratings down from 2017
NBC Sports public relations tweeted the ratings on Friday morning, saying the game garnered a 13.4 rating and 25 share, numbers that don’t include digital views.
While the network put a positive spin on the numbers, SportsMediaWatch wrote that it’s the lowest-rated Thursday night kickoff in several years. The 13.4 was down eight percent from last year’s Patriots-Chiefs opener, which drew a 14.6, and down nearly 20 percent from 2016, when the Broncos and Panthers had a rematch of Super Bowl 50 and posted a 16.5.
Those aren’t great numbers for the league, but they are strong in a general sense: NBC Sports PR wrote that the game was the highest-rated sporting event since the 2018 Winter Olympics, also on NBC. Games 2 and 3 of the NBA Finals both drew a 12.7 rating.
Weather delay likely played a role
Thursday’s game didn’t officially start until 9:05 p.m. ET thanks to a thunderstorm in Philadelphia. Accordingly, the ratings peak, 14.8, came in the 9:30-9:45 p.m. block, during the first quarter. The game did not end until after midnight on the East Coast, which means a lot of people missed the exciting ending.
Add in a lack of star power – Carson Wentz hasn’t been medically cleared to return to play after last year’s torn ACL, and the Falcons aren’t a big draw nationally – and it explains to some extent why viewership was down.
Not surprisingly, Philadelphia topped all markets, with a 32.9 rating in the city. New Orleans followed, at 24.6, and Atlanta third at 19.8 (so maybe the Falcons aren’t even that big of a draw in their own city).
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