Much Ado About Next-To-Nothing

The screaming headlines across sports pages (the few that still exist), entertainment trades and business websites earlier this week were not unusual nor unexpected:  Far and away, the most-viewed content on any form of television were NFL games.

But in light of all of the hubbub and commotion surrounding the carriage of over-the-air stations by DIREC TV , Dish Network and Charter/Spectrum that denied access to millions of subscribers , the size and context of what was reported by the likes of DEADLINE’s Katie Campione was somewhat stunning to more casual observers:

The NFL regular season is finally back to breathe some life into linear television.

Audiences were raring to go for the Thursday night kickoff game, delivering a huge audience for NBC’s telecast of the Detroit Lions victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. The game averaged 27.5M viewers to rank as the largest NFL kickoff game audience since 2015, up 24% over last year.

Despite nearly 40 NBC affiliates owned by Nexstar being blacked out on DIRECTV and some significant mid-size owns owned by Hearst in the midst of a dispute with Dish.

Meanwhile, with scant hours official notice of ABC affiliates and ESPN networks returning to Charter/Spectrum’s 14 million subscribing households, these Monday Night Football results were reported:

ABC is also taking home a win for its Week 1 Monday Night Football audience. The Jets vs. Bills brought in 10M viewers, which is up significantly from the 8M who tuned in for the Week 1 MNF game last season — though that might also have something to do with Aaron Rodgers sustaining a season-ending injury within minutes of the first quarter.

When factoring in viewership on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN+ and ESPN Deportes, the audience for the Jets vs. Bills game came in at 22.64M viewers, which up 14% from last year’s opener to become the most-watched MNF game ever for the combined networks.

So how could so much positive news emerge from such a theoretically diminished base of opportunity?

Blame Nielsen.

Because as Nielsen itself reminds, how and where 99.9997% of Americans watch TV doesn’t really matter.  Per Bing:

Nielsen’s U.S. National TV panel has reached 42,000 households covering 101,000 directly measured viewers1. Nielsen meters and recruits this group of panelists to be representative of the U.S. census data to enable Nielsen’s data to be demographically and geographically representative of national and local markets1Currently, there are 208 Designated Market Areas (DMAs) measured and reported by Nielsen234Let’s simplify this into 4 main market types: 25 Local People Meter31 Set Meter15 Code Reader and 137 Return Path Data Plus.

101,000 people to measure the viewing habits of more than 334 million people. Do the math.

Which also means that even at those relatively gargantuan levels, more than 90 percent of the American public chose not to watch national telecast pro football last weekend.

And those that did were and are motivated enough to figure out ways to be able to watch their game even if their provider was stopping them from doing so in the most convenient and economical way possible.

These games were available via streaming services.  Over-the-air TV antennas.  Bars.  Friends’ households.  Yep, even pirated from international sites.

And as long as the narrative is as positive on ratings as this, do you honestly think the NFL has much real concern about any of these little skirmishes–unless it were to escalate to the level of consternation that the possibility of missing Aaron Rodgers’ Jets debut did on Monday?  Where the likes of New York’s governor and longtime Bills fan Kathy Hochul reportedly called Roger Goodell and asked for him to turn some screws?

Yep, that worked out, too.  Well, all but the result and, oh, that minor mishap four snaps in the game.

Talk about much ado about next-to-nothing.


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