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NFL early season viewing in WNY remains as steady as '16

The bye week for the Buffalo Bills five weeks into the season is a good time to see if Western New York is less in love watching the National Football League on television.

Despite the controversy surrounding some players protesting racial injustice during the playing of the National Anthem, the short answer is a qualified no.

It is a "qualified" no because there are many variables early in a TV season, including expectations for the Bills, the weather, the opponents, the loss of injured stars and the closeness of games.

But after five weeks, there is no discernible trend to conclude WNY is following a national decline in viewing.

The first five Bills games have averaged a 36.0, down about 3 percent from the 37.6 rating for five games ago. Most of the difference comes from the fifth game of the seasons. The Bills loss to Cincinnati in game five had a 36.0 rating. A year ago, a Bills win over the Los Angeles Rams in the fifth game of the season had a 41.3 rating.

The ratings for Thursday Night Football on WIVB-TV (Channel 4), the local CBS affiliate, also dropped slightly to a 9.9 for the games this season compared to a 10.1 last season.

Otherwise, all the TV ratings are up.

The games on NBC's "Sunday Night Football" package over the first five weeks averaged a 14.2 rating on WGRZ-TV (Channel 2), up from a 14.0 last season when one game was opposite a presidential debate.

The games on ESPN's Monday Night Football averaged a 10.2 rating, compared to an 8.1 a year ago. However, one MNF game last season was opposite a presidential debate.

The CBS games on Channel 4 not involving the Bills over the first five weeks averaged an 18.4 rating, up from an 11.9 a year ago.

The games on WUTV (Channel 29), the local Fox affiliate, not involving the Bills, have averaged a 10.6 rating, up from a 10.4 at this point a year ago.

On the Sunday of the Bills bye week, New England's 24-17 victory over the New York Jets had a 14.5 rating on Channel 4. Pittsburgh's 19-13 win over Kansas City had a 19.7 rating for the late game carried on Channel 4.

Minnesota's 23-10 victory over Green Bay on Channel 29 had a 7.1 rating opposite the Pats-Jets game, which featured AFC East rivals of the Bills.

The New York Giants' 23-10 upset of Denver on Sunday Night Football had a 12.6 rating opposite the Buffalo Sabres' 3-1 win over Anaheim (4.8) on MSG and the Los Angeles Dodgers' 4-1 win over Chicago (3.0) on TBS in the second game of the National League Championship Series.

On Saturday afternoon and early evening, Houston's 2-1 victory over the New York Yankees had a 4.5 rating on Channel 29 in the second game of the American League Championship Series. Yankee postseason games in the evening could double that rating.

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