ESPN had some encouraging news from its 2016 season finale for Monday Night Football. After a season of lows, it finished on a high note. The Detroit Lions-Dallas Cowboys game received a 10.1 rating and a huge 18.6 milllion viewers. That’s up 7% in ratings and a massive 18% in viewership compared to last year’s Cincinnati-Denver season finale.
Thanks to the finale which marked the only time the Cowboys appeared on MNF this season, the game was the most-watched Monday Night Football game since Week 16 of the 2010 season (New Orleans-Atlanta) which averaged 19.1 million viewers.
And of course, it was the season best easily outdistancing the Giants-Vikings game in Week 4 which had an 8.0 rating and an audience of 13.2 million. It also beat the season cable high audience for an NFL game which was the Christmas Day Baltimore-Pittsburgh on NFL Network.
However, despite the good numbers for the MNF season finale, it still could not prevent the series from finishing below last season. Overall, the 16-game schedule averaged a 6.8 rating and 11.4 million viewers, down 16% in ratings and 12% in viewership from 2015 (8.1/12.9 million). And it’s the second lowest average for the series since it moved to ESPN in 2006.
The low was in 2007, Monday Night Football finished with a 7.3 average rating and 11.23 million viewers.
ESPN could point to the Presidential election as one of the factors that hurt its numbers, but its schedule also hurt. In addition to just one appearance by the Cowboys, the New England Patriots didn’t appear until Week 14 and the Green Bay Packers weren’t on until Week 12. So some of the NFL’s glamour teams were backloaded rather than appearing earlier.
Not only that, several games early in the schedule were blowouts leading to viewers turning off their sets and going to bed.
You’re only as good as your schedule and ESPN has to be hoping for more appearances by the Cowboys and some of the other proven ratings winners in 2017.