ESPN Loses Nielsen Yardage with 2012 'MNF' Season

With several unfavorable matchups down the stretch, ESPN’s 2012 Monday Night Football ratings lagged the franchise’s delivery from the prior season.

During its coverage of 17 contests – including the now traditional doubleheader on its opening night and the Dec. 22, Saturday night concluder between the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions – ESPN averaged an 8.2 U.S. household rating and 12.8 million watchers, according to Nielsen data.  Those marks were off 2% and almost 4%, respectively, from an 8.4 rating and 13.3 million watchers a year ago and represented the worldwide leader's lowest totals with MNF since the 2008 campaign.

Nevertheless, MNF remains cable’s top-rated series, one that routinely puts Monday in the win column for ESPN with viewers, households, adults 18 to 34 and males of that age, as well as guys 18 to 49 and men 25 to 54, week in and week out, across all of television.

ESPN, which had been ahead of its 2011 MNF pace for much of the 2012 season, saw its ratings take a hit with games featuring sub-.500 squads with the then 3-7 Carolina Panthers and 2-8 Philadelphia Eagles squaring off on Nov. 26 and the then 6-7 New York Jets and 4-9 Tennessee Titans meeting on Dec. 17. Rex Ryan's Jets were eliminated from playoff contention that night, amidst five turnovers.

The Dec. 22 finale was notable for Detroit Lions wide-out Calvin Johnson breaking Jerry Rice’s single-season record for receiving yards, but the disappointing team was throttled by the NFC’s top-seeded Atlanta Falcons and ESPN only tackled a season-low 6.0 rating and 9.7 million viewers with the telecast.