HomeSportsTV Ratings: NFL ‘Sunday Night Football’ Takes Major Hit, Still Dominates NBA Finals

TV Ratings: NFL ‘Sunday Night Football’ Takes Major Hit, Still Dominates NBA Finals

by Josh Lanier
(Photo by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“Sunday Night Football” won the war for viewers, but that was the only positive for the NFL. Viewers continue to turn away from the league citing an embittered political season and the coronavirus pandemic.

The “Sunday Night Football” match-up between the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers drew 11.8 million viewers, according to Deadline. That’s nearly triple the 4 million viewers that watched the Game 3 of the NBA Finals Sunday. The TV show “Black-ish” came in third with 2.4 million viewers.

Those preliminary numbers are down 20 percent when compared to last week’s early “Sunday Night Football” figures, ratings showed. Though, viewers may have been turned away from the game because of the struggling Eagles offense or a San Francisco team ravaged by injuries.

In 2019, the week 3 Sunday night game drew 24 million viewers.

Ratings down for all sports this year

Amid a backdrop of social unrest and a global pandemic, ratings for the major sports leagues are way down. NBA ratings were down 27 percent from last year, and 40 percent over the past two seasons, Sports Illustrated reported. MLB has struggled to draw an audience for its postseason. And the NHL had the least-watched Stanley Cup in over a decade.

But the fall in the NFL is the most dramatic, as it by far the dominant sport in America. So far, ratings are down 20 to 40 percent when compared to previous seasons. And they’re expected to continue that pattern.

But not everyone is panicking. For instance, “Sunday Night Football” commentator Al Michael’s sees things a different way, according to Sports Illustrated.

“The biggest joke to me is when I look at some of these websites that deal with ratings and Hollywood and all his stuff. It’s always like, “Sunday Night Football” ratings tank.’ I’m going, ‘EXCUSE ME?!’ It’s been No. 1 for 10 years in a row. You look at the Emmys—the Emmys—we beat the Emmys 3 to 1. 

“I’m sorry, but there’s a part of me that wants to go, ‘Stop it already. What are you talking about?’ Ratings tank because it’s down to 19 million from 20 million?

“So when it comes to ratings that’s my feeling and I’m sticking to it.”

Some analysts agree with Michaels. They see this as a blip in what will be a return to form after the election is over and the pandemic is in our rearview mirror. Fox seems to think so. The network is reportedly willing to pay up to $2 billion a year for NFL broadcast rights going forward, is reporting.

The Vikings take on the Seahawks in next week’s “Sunday Night Football” game.