On Friday, NBC Sports released the ratings for the National Football League’s Thursday night opening game. The ratings for its 2020 Kickoff game attracted an average of 19.3 million viewers. That is around a 12 percent decline versus last year’s season opener.
The defending champion Kansas City Chiefs hosted the Houston Texans on Thursday night. NBC Sports said the game peaked at 22 million viewers around 9:15-9:30 p.m. EST. The Chiefs topped the Texans, 34-20, at Arrowhead Stadium in front of a crowd of about 17,000 fans.
According to the network, Thursday’s game is only the second sporting event since the Super Bowl in February to garner 20 million viewers or more. The Academy Awards on Feb. 9 recorded 23.6 million viewers.
Although the game surpassed 20 million viewers at its peak, ratings dipped more than 12% compared to 2019. The Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers opened the 2019 season. Their matchup averaged 22 million viewers, and peaked at 23.9 million viewers.
Possible Reasons for the NFL Ratings Decline
There are multiple factors as to why Thursday’s season opener had a ratings drop. The NFL faced some stiff competition on television Thursday night. Since Covid-19 forced other leagues to delay their seasons, many sports are competing for viewership at the same time.
In fact, both the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League were broadcasting playoff games during the NFL opener. Additionally, other leagues hosting games Thursday included Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and tennis’ U.S. Open.
Another possible factor is the controversy surrounding NFL players protesting during the pregame national anthem. The NFL has been more supportive of players choosing to protest for social justice and against police brutality. Many fans disagree with the movement, and some even think its disrespectful.
The protests could have possibly added to the ratings decline. Thursday night’s game opened to players and staff from each team locking arms for a moment of unity. The show of unity followed months of social unrest after the killings of Black people by police officers, including the May 25 killing of George Floyd.
The top five TV markets for the game outside of the two team cities included Denver, Austin, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Philadelphia, according to NBC, which used data from Nielsen and Adobe Analytics.