Sports ratings have been down almost across the board since leagues, games and events began returning in late July. Predictably, TV ratings for the NFL’s opening week experienced similar declines.
Headlining the NFL’s TV ratings were drop-offs for their Sunday Night Football and Monday Night Football broadcasts. For Sunday Night Football, NBC drew an average audience of 18.94 million for the matchup between the Cowboys and Rams, a 15% decline from 2019’s opening week according to Nielsen. Sports Business Journal’s Austin Karp noted it was SNF’s smallest Week 1 audience since 2008.
For Monday Night Football, ESPN’s early game between the Giants and Steelers averaged 10.8 million viewers, down from 2019’s 13.5 million, but an increase from 2018 which drew 10.45 million. The late game on ESPN, however, was historically low as the Titans-Broncos broadcast averaged just 7.7 million viewers.
But even as the TNF, SNF and MNF audiences dipped from 2019, there were some bright spots for the NFL in Week 1. According to Nielsen, the national window for FOX garnered an average of 25.85 million viewers as Tom Brady and the Buccaneers went up against the Saints in New Orleans. For FOX, it was their most watched Week 1 America’s Game of the Week since 2016 and a 7% jump from last year. FOX also touted a 7% gain from 2019 during its regional window, with a 13.5 million average audience.
In contrast to FOX, CBS was down 12% with 13.6 million viewers for its singleheader.
NFL Detractors will point to anthem protests and defenders will tout the big audience who watched Brady and Brees on FOX. There are a number of factors working against the NFL’s ratings right now and protests might be one of them. But not to be forgotten are decreased broadcast TV consumption, empty stadiums, the election year, no preseason hype, and fans building a tolerance for life without sports.
Brandon Contes is a former reporter for BSM, now working for Awful Announcing. You can find him on Twitter @BrandonContes or reach him by email at Brandon.Contes@gmail.com.
Molly Qerim: Stephen A. Smith and I Have Never Had a Mike and the Mad Dog-Style Fight
“We’re definitely annoyed at each other for times. There were times when we were very, very annoyed.”
Mike and the Mad Dog were celebrated on First Take Wednesday morning for their legendary careers. One topic that came up was their legendary fights, with host Molly Qerim saying — luckily — she’s never had that issue arise with Stephen A. Smith.
Nearing the conclusion of the episode, Qerim pointed out how ridiculous some of the arguments between Mike Francesa and Chris “Mad Dog” Russo became, bringing up the legendary discussion about the restrooms at Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium.
“You guys would debate everything, even bathrooms,” Qerim said. “You really debated bathrooms.”
Francesa and Russo then discussed how the bathroom discussion led to months of silence, where they did not speak to each other outside of the show for more than five months, before Francesa’s wife invited Russo to their wedding, which eventually squashed the beef.
“Think about it. If you two (Smith and Qerim) did not get along, and for five months and you walked in here and didn’t talk to each other either before, during or after (the show),” Russo said. “That’s hard to pull off.”
“We never did that,” replied Qerim. “We’re definitely annoyed at each other at times. There were times when we were very, very annoyed.”
Francesa asked Qerim and Smith if they’d ever had “a real fight” with both immediately responding no.
Smith did note — somewhat jokingly — that he had felt “very bruised” from time to time by Qerim.
Kevin Negandhi: I’m the Same on SportsCenter As I Am In Real Life
“I’ve always just tried to find that blend where I can be respectful for the audience and have a good time and have fun delivering highlights.”
Kevin Negandhi has been one of the hosts of the 6:00 PM ET SportsCenter on ESPN over the last few years. Even in this prominent role, Negandhi takes great pride in making sure the viewer is being entertained and getting an escape from the real world, at least for an hour.
Negandhi was a guest on The Adam Schein Podcast this week and Schein asked him how he would describe his broadcast style. He wanted to make it clear that if you met him on the street, he is the same person that you see on ESPN.
“I’m the person that you would meet casually, I’m the same person on TV. I’ve always said that I represent not just my family, not just where I’m from, I represent the passion of the great area and region that is Philadelphia. When you see me on TV, I feel like I’m letting you into a conversation I would normally have with you if we were talking about something. You are here for an escape, let’s talk about it because I got in the business because I passionately love sports. It was my connection with my family growing up. Connection with my family still to this day. It’s kind of like get in with us.”
Whenever Negandhi is hosting SportsCenter, he told Schein he tries to find a good mix of giving the highlights and the news while also understanding that the viewer is looking to be entertained as well.
“I’ve always just tried to find that blend where I can be respectful for the audience and have a good time and have fun delivering highlights and delivering the news and making sure you are entertained but at the same time understanding that I’m having fun with you while you are watching us as an escape.”
One other broadcaster that stands out for not being just a broadcaster according to Negandhi is Scott Van Pelt because Van Pelt is comfortable being himself and doesn’t have a filter.
“Scott Van Pelt really stands out to me because when you watch Scott, there is no filter with Scott. He’s not a broadcaster. Scott is Scott and he is comfortable in his skin.”
Ricky Keeler is a reporter for BSM with a primary focus on sports media podcasts and national personalities. He is also an active podcaster with an interest in pursuing a career in sports media. You can find him on Twitter @Rickinator555 or reach him by email at RickJKeeler@gmail.com.
MLS Season Pass Debuts on Apple TV
The first MLS season begins on Saturday, February 25th, with Nashville SC taking on New York City FC. All matches will be available for free during the first week of the season.
MLS Season Pass on Apple TV debuted to much fanfare for Major League Soccer fans Wednesday.
Fans from around the world will be able to watch every MLS contest as the launch of the service begins the streaming platform’s 10-year, $2.5 billion media rights contract with the American soccer league.
With the debut of the service, most MLS games will now take place on Saturdays and select Wednesdays with 7:30 PM local start times.
MLS Season Pass will feature several prominent soccer voices, including analysts Taylor Twellman and Cobi Jones, play-by-play man Max Bretos, and studio host Liam McHugh.
The MLS season begins on Saturday, February 25th, with Nashville SC taking on New York City FC. All matches will be available for free during the first week of the season.
The streaming service will cost $14.99 per month or $99 per season, with existing AppleTV+ subscribers being offered the package at a discounted price of $12.99 per month or $79 for the season.
MLS Season Pass launches on a wide range of viewing platforms. Not only is the service available on televisions, smartphones, and tablets, but it can also be viewed on smart TVs, computers, and video game consoles.