While NFL ratings have fallen to earth after last season’s gravity-defying performance, Sunday Night Football is going strong, reports NBC Sports, with an average of 20.1 million total viewers season to date in live plus same day ratings. That’s top of the charts by that Nielsen measure, with NBC’s Thursday Night Football second at 16.8 million total viewers, ahead of CBS’ NCIS (14.9 million), CBS’ chunk of the Thursday Night Football slate (14.7 million) and CBS comedy The Big Bang Theory (14.6 million).
Nielsen issued a report Dec. 13 in which it had Sunday Night Football at 19.28 million viewers for 2016, in terms of live plus seven ratings, behind CBS series The Big Bang Theory at 19.94 million and NCIS at 19.89 million. (Scripted shows of course benefit from delayed viewing more than sports do.) CBS had six of the top 10 shows in 2016.
NBC Sports spoke out against the report, noting that, among other things, Nielsen concluded the season Nov. 6, when Sunday Night Football still had a few games to air; it measured live plus seven day ratings; and did not include the NFL’s opening day game, which airs on a Thursday (it went down Sept. 8) but is part of the Sunday Night Football franchise.
NBC Sports also said SNF was tops in adults 18-49, per live plus same day ratings, at a 7.0. AMC’s The Walking Dead did a 5.6, NBC’s Thursday Night Football a 5.2, CBS’ Thursday Night Football a 4.9 and ESPN’s Monday Night Football a 3.8.
Reasons given for the NFL’s ratings challenges this season include heightened interest on the presidential race and an oversaturation of televised games on Sunday, Monday and Thursday.
Yet NBC Sports notes that Sunday Night Football has averaged an 11.4 household rating this season, with 11 straight years of 10.0-plus performance in HH. Dec. 18’s Dallas Cowboys-Tampa Bay Buccaneers encounter on NBC prime drew 24.1 million total viewers.
The SNF game Christmas Day features the Denver Broncos versus the Kansas City Chiefs.
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.