Hurricane Irma is delaying Nielsen’s TV ratings for Sunday’s prime-time lineup because one of the company’s rating teams had to evacuate the Tampa Bay area.
So there’s no word yet on how well — or not well — the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants did on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.
But the NFL’s ratings are off to a slow start for the opening week. The marquee matchup to kick off the season between the defending champion New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night had an 11.5 percent drop in ratings compared with the 2016 season opener.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones isn’t concerned about the early TV ratings and the Cowboys-Giants game might suggest all is well. Or it may not.
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Jones pointed to the recent hurricanes, including Harvey that wreaked havoc in southeast Texas, as the reasons why viewership may be down for now.
“I was surprised that New England — that was a good matchup and the Chiefs had a real good team,” Jones said after the Cowboys’ 19-3 victory over the Giants on Sunday. “I know all of these tragic conditions in Florida and in Houston, have had this nation involved in it. I know a lot of other things that normally get ratings are considerably down as people are struggling with these storms.
“Under the circumstances, I don’t feel comfortable worrying about ratings.”
This comes on the heels of the NFL’s TV ratings being down 8 percent across the board last season. An average NFL game dropped in viewership from 17.9 million in 2015 to 16.5 million in 2016, according to an ESPN report.
Several factors were pointed to a year ago, ranging from San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem to the polarizing presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Now it could be the storms.
At some point, though, the NFL might have to wonder if it’s the product on the field and what it must do differently to get the TV ratings back on the upswing.