The NFL opening game Thursday drew the lowest NFL Kickoff rating since 2009.

Entering the new NFL season, one of the biggest off-field storylines concerns the league’s television ratings. Last year saw substantial dips in viewership, and the league and its advertisers now wait to see if the decline owed mostly to the chaos surrounding the presidential election or to something more insidious.

Well, ratings are in for the NFL’s opening night, and the results resist easy conclusions. The Chiefs’ 42-27 win over the Patriots clash on NBC drew a 14.6 overnight rating, down around 12 percent from last year and the worst rating the game’s received in years.

In the later fast national ratings, the game recorded a 7.2 in the adults 18-49 demographic, with an 26 share and an estimated 20.81 million viewers. Those will likely adjust up in the end, especially when considering live+same day (the standard used in this Wikipedia entry of NFL kickoff game ratings). However, it definitely looks like this is the lowest-rated kickoff game since at least 2012 (14.7 household rating, 23.9 million live+same day viewers) and maybe since 2009 (12.8 household rating, 20.9 million live+same day viewers).

That said, there were extenuating circumstances here, with Hurricane Irma bearing down on the American southeast and millions of people either forced to evacuate their homes or at least focused on other things.

Fox Sports’ Michael Mulvihill pointed out that cable news and the weather channel drew much better viewership going against the NFL opener this year than in the past two years, suggesting that American attention were directed elsewhere Thursday.

Obviously, it’s going to be a little while before we can make any sweeping conclusions about whether the NFL’s ratings are back or whether the league is truly in decline. The extra hurricane context here makes it hard to judge what this particular number means in the wider context. And even if this is a larger decline, it’s still very good by the standards of anything else on TV, and advertisers are still flocking to the NFL. With that said, though, the league could probably use some good ratings news some time soon. And it didn’t get it with this kickoff game.

[TV By The Numbers]

About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports,, and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.

  • BK

    Right. Now go find the ratings for the US Open. Guess a lot of US Open fans don’t care about Irma?

    It’s not the protests. It’s not “other things going on in the world.” The quality of the NFL product has deteriorated. But keep finding excuses.

    • Rey Henry

      the media keeps looking for excuses. i think it is just the nfl has reached its peak in popularity and they and their partners have over saturated the market. for example espn will cover the most mundane, innocuous nfl story as if it was earth shattering news, there are games on every day of the week except for tuesday and wednesday. the pregame shows now last hours before the actual games with 20 person panels.

      • Carter_Burger67

        and on Tuesdays/Wednesdays, the NFL Network reruns games from the previous week.

    • Carter_Burger67

      the quality of the product has deteriorated, indeed. And the protests are waking people up to wonder if they REALLY want to watch this. And they are figuring out, they don’t. When the NFL started pandering to people who don’t even watch, I knew they were in trouble.

    • Humility

      Yup. They keep making excuses. All the values I was taught from sports in my day are gone.
      The fairness value is gone.
      The respect for a competitor is gone.
      The respect for their country is gone.
      The military has to buy advertisements and “honors” from the NFL.
      Further: The game is no longer about who can build the best team. The league strives for parity instead. It becomes about helping weak and poorly managed teams get better and strong well managed teams become weaker. They take this bias into every layer of the game. Another article today talking about refs getting “help” in their headsets from the league office. They said it was to help get the right call. That is why we get to see the obvious holding/late hit/cheap shot/infraction on replay while the official is making the wrong call.
      These kinds of obvious deviations from “American values” is why the game is drawing less viewers. We can see the same affect on Hollywood.

  • Jean H Pierre

    Also the US Open semifinal match between Slone Stephens vs Venus Williams played a part in the ratings.

    • Paul Rain

      Don’t kid yourself, mate. Womens tennis is all about the looks, and Tyreek Hill is a damn sight better looking than those two. No h_mo.

  • BobLee Says

    Did Commissioner Goodell announce “I’m not an expert on football… OR TV viewership either”? What will the excuse be next week… and the weeks after?

  • Bragar

    I didn’t watch because a player on the Chiefs consistently sits for the national anthem. I won’t watch any nfl game where African Americans disrespect my flag.

    I’m a vet. I’ve earned my point of view.

    • ontherocks

      so if you weren’t serving for people to freely express themselves, what were you serving for?

    • Realest760

      I am not gonna go off on you outta respect…all I am going to say is charrliteville !!!!

      • Paul Rain

        Oh, you’re a fan of Communists? Plenty of communists burning our national flag at Charlottesville. And veterans standing on the anti-communist, anti-BLMterrorist side against that garbage.

    • Rey Henry

      i am a vet also. i am also a black man who has worked in law enforcement who has been pulled over numerous times for “speeding” or fitting the description of a suspect. only to be let go because i was in uniform.

      so everyone is upset about players sitting during the anthem. yet they dont get upset when an unarmed person is shot or killed despite not committing a crime.

      • JWJ

        “so everyone is upset about players sitting during the anthem. yet they
        dont get upset when an unarmed person is shot or killed despite not
        committing a crime.”

        You do know that is a straw-man argument. Why can’t a person be upset about players protesting at work and in a manner that some folks find offensive AND also be upset by excessive force by police? I personally want qualified immunity to be ended.

    • 86_90

      And any other player who sits during the National Anthem–black, white or other. If they sit, it’s disrespectful. There are many other ways these millionaires can voice their alleged social concerns. I can’t do it at my job, what makes these whinny little punks so special? Guess it’s the money and the stage.

  • JWJ

    Absolutely it was the hurricane. And don’t forget the #blackboycott (see article on this site by Mr. Clinkscales) due to kaepernick still being unemployed.

    As 80-90%% of sports/political writers claim, definitely does NOT have anything to do with anthem protests.

    • Paul Rain

      Yeah, who wouldn’t listen to those effeminate broken sportswriters spewing out nonsense from somewhere on the Eastern seaboard? If all the cosmopolitans say it, it MUST be right.

  • ontherocks

    Participation in football has fallen dramatically among today’s youth – and I would argue that there are fewer “football families” than ever before. That’s how it is in my town, and I’m one of the youth football coaches. Less people interested in the sport = lower viewership. Put that into the mix.

  • Realest760

    For the white please understand there’s bigger sh!t going on in the U.S then football and Kap…

  • Rick Leslie

    Blaming the weather? Good luck with that.

  • Bscotch Bscotch

    Look at the demos that were down for the NFL compared to those up for news/weather…..instead of blindly acting as Mikey’s mouthpiece, maybe dig a little deeper.

  • Paul Rain

    This is absurd. Real Americans are tired of the Negro Felon’s League. We would rather see our own people play than hired rape machines.

    Hockey’s alright.

    • gat96

      You never played a sport in your life

      • Paul Rain

        Lol. From a criminal worshipper, that cuts deep.

        • WLTS

          You are a little snowflake…a nice little snowflake.

  • Rey Henry

    it’s not the protests. it’s not the hurricanes. its not the election.
    the answer is plain and simple. there are tons of more viewing options on tv. i didnt watch the game. yet i was able to keep track of every play, stat, and injury via my smart phone.

  • Rob

    The NFL letting politics into their game has turned me off. The players have the right to protest, the owners have the right to stop them and I have a right to turn them off. It looks like the owners choose to have fans turn them off instead of staying out of politics.

    • WLTS

      Dumb….be real. First all levels of football have seen decreased participation over the last ten years..while soccer has skyrocketd in th 6-14 y/o participation ages’. The product put on the field is terrible…hard to watch or stay interested. You get a GRAND total of 12 minutes of live action for a 3 to 4 hour time investment. The days of football ruling anything is fast coming to a close. Not because of politics but because people no longer care. And the most telling aspect is when asked youth no longer care to any degree about football. With the vast amount of entertainment options available they just don’t watch or care. And if you look at the demo’s for who watches football…Men 36-60 y/o. Not a recipe for increased ratings.