NFL Ratings in Decline: Could Shows Like ‘Yellowstone’ Dethrone Football on Sunday Nights?

by Jon D. B.
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With the NFL showing it’s lowest overall ratings in a decade, are other Sunday night shows like “Yellowstone” poised for victory?

It’s hard to tell – but the signs are emerging. First, let’s look at the numbers:

According to last week’s television rations, live NFL programming was still the most-watched TV show from Monday, Sept. 7 – Sun, Sept. 13th. That Sunday saw a peak in viewership with 25.8 million viewers. During this seemingly-impressive peak, fans were tuning in to watch Tom Brady and Tampa Bay take on the New Orleans Saints.

NFL Ratings down almost 20%

So why isn’t this good news? Although these numbers still seem impressive in solitude – they’re a huge dip from the past. The NFL’s Thursday night opener fell a whopping 16% (and could be even lower after further analysis) over last season. In TV ratings – this is enough to start firm cancellation talks for a network show or sitcom. Even worse – Sunday Night Football – their ratings darling and reigning champion – set an absolute low for this decade.

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Tom Brady QBing for the Buccaneers (Photo credit: by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Sincere trouble came for the NFL with former pro-49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick. His peaceful protest – kneeling during the National Anthem before games – came in response to the realities of police brutality against African Americans. During the fallout, the NFL saw a dip of almost 10% – which translates to about 17 million viewers – per live broadcast. It took two years for the NFL to “recover” its ratings.

In 2020, amidst a far-more polarized political and communal landscape, ratings are off to an extremely mixed – to downright “panic-mode” – start for the NFL.

Meanwhile, Paramount’s Yellowstone is firing on all cylinders – and up almost 20%

Now – NFL ratings in decline are Yellowstone gold. Whether the same viewers are choosing to jump ship from football to the best modern western on television – or the show simply has earned its own merits – is impossible to tell. The numbers, however, don’t lie:

According to Paramount Network, their Yellowstone season 3 finale episode was the most-watched telecast in the network’s history. The show garnered 10.7 million viewers “once simulcasts and encores were factored in”.

These are – in 2020 – football-numbers. Sunday-night numbers. Yellowstone is officially big-time NFL viewership competition.

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Series lead Kevin Costner speaks on behalf of Yellowstone & Paramount. (Photo credit: Richard Bord/Getty Images for Cannes Lions)

The show began slower in ratings, but Variety reports that “season 3 is up around 18% among adults 18-49 in Live+3 when compared with the previous season.” That’s a gain as massive for Yellowstone in percentage as the losses for the NFL.

Yellowstone, too, has been renewed for a fourth season already. The deal was finalized in February this year with ViacomCBS. In short: the show, unlike the NFL, shows no signs of slowing down.

In the era of streaming services & catered entertainment, the battle for live TV viewership is proving to be anyone’s game – and beyond unpredictable. If one thing is for certain, however, it’s an uptick in champagne sales courtesy of Paramount.

[H/T Observer.com & Variety]

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