Despite a blowout, a matchup between two unappealing teams, *and* a record-low overnight rating for a primetime game, Thursday Night Football on Fox and NFL Network still came out as the top sports program on Thursday night. That comes in spite of strong competition from Game 5 of the ALCS on TBS, and an NBA Opening Week doubleheader on TNT.
Per Sports Media Watch, the TNF game between the Broncos and Cardinals drew a 6.6 overnight, down a whopping 33% from 2016’s fourth TNF simulcast (Broncos-Chargers) and 2017’s Week 7 TNF game (Chiefs-Raiders). The 6.6 is also the lowest overnight for a primetime game on a broadcast network, a mark that has stood since 2008 (Seahawks-Bucs, which drew a 7.2 on NBC’s Sunday Night Football).
But the NFL is a monster, and despite everything working against the league on Thursday night, it still dominated its nearest sports competition, which came not from ESPN or NBC, but from Turner. Game 5 of the Red Sox-Astros ALCS on TBS drew a 5.0 overnight, up 28% from Game 5 of the NLCS last year on TBS and marking the best LCS Game 5 overnight for TBS in a decade. However, nearly a third more people ended up watching the NFL than MLB on Thursday.
TNT’s NBA doubleheader also didn’t put up much of a fight. The network didn’t report overnights for the Bulls-76ers game in the early slot (and you can make of that what you will), but Lakers-Blazers in the late window (which competed with a chunk of the second half of TNF) drew a 2.6 overnight. That’s a 63% spike from the second half of last year’s Opening Week Thursday doubleheader (Lakers-Clippers), but a hell of a lot lower than the overnight TNF drew.
I have two immediate takeaways from this.
- Comparing broadcast ratings to cable ratings is dumb and we shouldn’t do it. Yet, we will continue to do it, especially since the NFL airs almost exclusively on broadcast television, and most other sports air a vast majority of their games on cable.
- Comparing the NFL to any other sport is ridiculous, because even with declining ratings in recent years, the league still dominates all of its other competition.
Now, if this game was airing exclusively on NFL Network and still beat baseball and basketball on Turner’s networks, then we would have a much more compelling point. Today, all this shows is that the NFL can stumble ass backwards into three completely non-compelling hours of football, and still run over every other sport in its path.