For any other league, a 36 percent nosedive in the ratings might be considered cause for alarm, but the National Football League remains number one on our televisions, and therefore, in our hearts.
The season premiere of ESPN's Monday Night Football, which featured a Baltimore blowout of Cincinnati, drew 10.9 million viewers, which was tops on cable for the evening. In fact, aside from NBC's season premiere of The Voice, it was the most watched show on all of television. However, it was a 36 percent drop from last year's season opener, when New England trounced Miami to an audience of 14.5 million, and down 38 percent from the Ravens MNF opener against the Jets two years ago (14.9 million).
What caused the slide in numbers. Well, Baltimore and Cincinnati are both smaller markets than either New England or Miami. Even though both games were blowouts, last year's game saw Tom Brady and Wes Welker trying to set crazy records. Plus, the U.S. Open extending into primetime may have hurt the games early. Overall, however, it isn't really a concern as the NFL still destroys everything else on broadcast and cable. Another explanation? Viewers in Baltimore and Cincinnati watched the games on local stations -- which have permission to simulcast ESPN's broadcast -- rather than ESPN, whereas more people in New England and Miami saw the game on ESPN last year.
In the late game, the San Diego-Oakland contrast drew 10.4 million viewers, down six percent from last year's Oakland-Denver late game (11.1 million), though it drew higher ratings in the Adults 18-49 demographic than the Baltimore-Cincinnati game, beating it 4.9 to 4.7. So don't worry, NFL, you're still the king. Just maybe give us some better Monday night games next year.