Monday Night Football ratings were down 24 percent in week 5, re-enforcing fears that the ongoing double-digit decline in NFL TV audiences this year is a harbinger of a major viewership shift.
It was a battle of two mid-market teams with combined 3-7 records, with the Carolina Panthers losing again to advance to a 1-4 start just one year after appearing in the Super Bowl. But was the game’s year-ago comparison, an October 12, 2015 game featuring the playoff-bound Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the moribund San Diego Chargers, 24 percent better?
There were no debate or major election event Monday night. Both games faced competition from Major League Baseball’s division playoffs.
Over the first five weeks of the season, total audience performance is down 10 percent for broadcast and cable networks licensing from the NFL. Collectively, 21st Century Fox, CBS Corp., Comcast/NBCUniversal and Disney/ESPN are set to pay $40 billion through 2022 to show NFL games.
Advertisers are spending up to $700,000 per 30-second spot on some pro football games.
Some analysts say TV execs should just stick to the running the game and not panic.
In a report issued Monday, MoffettNathanson’s Michael Nathanson cautioned media investors “not to read too much into a month of data and extrapolate a new trend.
“Looking back at the last five years, NFL ratings on a [compound annual growth rate] basis have been relatively flat over time with variability in any given year, including a 5 percent drop in 2012-13 and a 7 percent decline in 2014-15,” he said.
But in a report sent to investors Tuesday, BTIG Research analyst Richard Greenfield said TV’s last supposedly erosion-proof asset, live sports, is now mortal.
“Prime TV is getting crushed, now football, too,” Greenfield said. “No linear TV is immune to fragmentation of ratings.”
Through four weeks of games, ESPN’s Monday Night Football was down 17 percent in adults 18-49. NBC Sunday Night Football was down 13 percent entering last night’s game, while CBS Thursday night game was down 15 percent. Notably, daytime coverage on both CBS and Fox were down only 3 percent.
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