That people are willing to watch preseason football remains one of the more interesting phenomenons in American sports. Unless you are the hardest of hardcore fans of a particular team, what are you getting out of it? I don’t pretend to understand it, but it appears that viewers are starting to sour a little bit on the NFL’s opening salvo to the world.
The annual Hall of Fame Game from Canton, Ohio between the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills drew a 5.8 overnight for NBC. While that won the night, it was down 13 percent from the Cowboys-Dolphins tilt in 2013. The game had reached peaks as high as a 7.6 for Cowboys-Bengals in 2010. That said, it will still likely go down as one of the highest-rated television programs of the week, and is the highest-rated sports program of the weekend.
As expected, nationally the game trounced ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball telecast between the Yankees and Red Sox, 5.8 to 1.7. That said, it’s still kind of shocking that the Giants game beat out the Yankees in the New York market, 5.5 to 4.1. Even with the team still in a playoff race, the chance to watch Ryan Nassib was apparently too much for New Yorkers, many of whom share the Yankees and the Giants as part of their fandom, to pass up. That said, a 5.5 is still a pretty weak rating, even for NFL preseason in a local market (the last available preseason rating we have for the Giants — their fourth and final preseason game on local television against the Patriots last season — also drew a 5.5).
In Buffalo, the game reached absurd ratings. The game hit a 26.5 rating in the market, easily topping everywhere else in the country. Not only that, but a one-hour pre-game show for the first pre-season game drew a 12.2 rating, which will make it the #2 program in the market behind the game for the entire week. Apparently, people are just that excited to see the Bills again.
So, the NFL starts off this season the same way it ended last season: dominant. However, the small downward slide is interesting after an off-season filled with controversy league-wide. It’ll be interesting to see where the numbers go from here… oh, who are we kidding? When the games mean something they’ll go back to drawing massive ratings. Same as it ever was.