NFL Thursday Night Football made its 2017 debut on CBS Thursday night with the Green Bay Packers demolishing the Chicago Bears. It was the first of five Thursday night games CBS will broadcast, splitting the season package with NBC, and according to the network, this season’s premiere was an improvement over last year.
Thursday’s Bears-Packers telecast on CBS and NFL Network drew an average overnight of 9.9 and an 18 share. CBS is touting those numbers as a six percent increase over last season, but the network is making a comparison with the Bears-Packers telecast from last year. That game was played on Oct. 20, 2016, obviously a different time of year.
Is it a comparable matchup? Well, yes — the same two teams (albeit with different personnel, especially on the Chicago side) played each other. But it wasn’t at the same point on the calendar or NFL schedule.
According to Sports Media Watch, last season’s Thursday Night Football premiere on CBS — which took place in Week 2, not Week 4 — drew a 9.5 household rating for a game between the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills. So this year’s 9.9 was still an increase, just not as notable a difference as the 8.5 that Bears-Packers drew in Week 7 in 2016. By the way, TNF drew a 4.8 rating last year, but that telecast was only on NFL Network.
Other factors will need to be considered when comparing these ratings as well. As Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith points out, there was a weather delay lasting approximately 45 minutes during the telecast. How many viewers turned away at that point or even turned on the game, only to see the delay and go elsewhere?
We also don’t yet know Amazon’s numbers for its premiere TNF stream. How might that have affected the CBS/NFL Network ratings, especially with many viewers possibly trying out Amazon’s debut stream to see how it performed?
Were ratings affected by NFL player protests? Were viewers excited to see TNF‘s premiere on CBS? How did the Bears-Packers rivalry matchup factor in? There are many different angles that can be worked into judging Thursday’s telecast, which will need to many different opinions as to what the numbers really mean.