Concern over NFL ratings is so two years ago. Remember those days?

Was viewership down because of outrage over national anthem protests? Were there too many games on TV with Thursday Night Football and the early Sunday window when games were played in London? Bad matchups in marquee time slots? Not enough star quarterbacks? Etc., etc.

Ratings dropped 9.7 percent in 2017. The NFL had to provide makegoods with advertisers to compensate for the expected viewership that didn’t materialize.

But that was 2017. This is 2019.

As AdAge’s Anthony Crupi reports, NFL ratings are up six percent from the same period (going into Week 16) one year ago. The numbers are up 11 percent from 2017.

Nobody cares about anthem protests anymore. Fans love getting extra NFL action on Thursday nights and Sunday mornings. Those time slots, along with Monday nights, have seen better matchups. Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, Dak Prescott, Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz, and a handful of other young quarterbacks have added a boost of must-see talent to Thursdays, Sundays, and Mondays.


Ratings for network scripted series continue to dwindle, while NFL numbers in primetime and on Sunday afternoons are flourishing. Being in the NFL business is the best business for TV networks. And as a result, those broadcasters can charge much more for in-game advertising spots.

Citing data from Standard Media Index, AdAge reports that the cost of an in-game unit has increased 15 percent from a year ago. In October, advertisers had to pay an average of $419,045 for a 30-second spot compared to averaging $363,016 at the same time in 2018.

Ad rates for Fox’s Sunday afternoon NFL games, fueled by marquee national matchups in the 4:20 ET window, are up 20 percent. Rates for the Oct. 6 Cowboys-Packers game were estimated to be even higher, especially for late buys. NBC and CBS are also enjoying double-digit increases for in-game spots.

Only NFL Network saw a decrease in its ad rates during October, but the channel was saddled with a Sunday morning Panthers-Buccaneers matchup. No word yet on how NFL Network fared for its triple-header during the weekend before Christmas, which featured Patriots-Bills and Rams-49ers in its late afternoon and primetime telecasts, respectively.

Otherwise, business is a-boomin’ for TV networks broadcasting the NFL. The ratings decline of 2017 looks increasingly distant in the rearview mirror.


About Ian Casselberry

Ian is a writer, editor, and podcaster. You can find his work at Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He's written for Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation.