Last night was an extremely surreal night in this country, and an extremely surreal night if you were watching television. I personally was glued to the live coverage of the reaction to the Darren Wilson grand jury decision and the aftermath further on in Ferguson, Missouri. It appears that many others were doing the same.
ESPN’s Monday Night Football drew a 7.1 rating for the Ravens/Saints game, the lowest of the season for ESPN. Some might say that this was also affected by the Bills/Jets game going on simultaneously. Perhaps, but I agree with the rep for ESPN who told me the effects were minimal from that game.
New York drew a 7.4 rating for the Jets blowout loss in Detroit, well below their season average and by a wide margin the lowest rating for a Jets game this season. Buffalo drew a 37.8 rating. While that is a huge number, Buffalo is a relatively small market that, no matter what the rating for that game was, would not have all that great an impact on a non-AFC East Monday night game.
Instead, there is heavy evidence to suggest that the MNF rating was hurt by the coverage in Ferguson.
CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC averaged a 9.0 overnight rating during Ravens-Saints, more than 3.5 times larger than what nets got last Monday
— Austin Karp (@AustinKarp) November 25, 2014
Just to add on another number to buoy this point, the St. Louis market — obviously heavily affected by what was going on — drew just a 2.4 rating for the game, down by a lot from their season average of 6.5.
So the nation was more concerned with what was going on in the midwest last night than a non-conference NFL game, and well, they had every right to be. The NFL still draws a better rating for Monday night games on ESPN than they do for Thursday night games on NFL Network without the CBS simulcast, but it’s slightly lower than usual.