One of the big early stories in the National Football League season is declining national TV ratings.
Among the possible culprits for a reported 11 percent viewership decline through the first four weeks: Interest in the presidential race, the weather, the lack of new stars, the excess number of televised games, competition with streaming services, Tom Brady’s suspension, the excitement comparison to college football and because ratings are being compared to last year’s high ratings.
I can’t see Brady’s absence for four games having much of an impact.
The NFL has dismissed the idea that San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem -- a protest that has been joined by other players -- is a cause.
I’ll be honest: I find it increasingly difficult to watch an entire NFL game that doesn’t involve the Bills because even close games haven’t been that exciting.
The national ratings decline makes one wonder how NFL ratings have been in Buffalo for the first five weeks of the TV season.
Since the 2015 NFL ratings were unusually high, it is best to compare for two or more seasons.
Overall, ratings here are down from last season but pretty close to the 2014 levels in most cases. Of course, you might expect ratings in NFL markets like Buffalo would be higher than they would be in markets that don't have teams.
There are variables that contribute to ratings differences year by year, including whether the match-ups are as strong as they were in past seasons and whether the weather is better or worse than in previous years.
The Bills games on WIVB: The four games have averaged a strong 38.3 rating, which is down about 10 percent from a 42.6 average for the first four games it carried of the Rex Ryan era in 2015, but up about 7 percent from the 35.7 rating for the first three games it carried in 2014. The Bills games remain by far the most popular TV program in Western New York. Top prime time entertainment programs get ratings in the low to mid-teens.
The Bills game on WUTV: The Bills game over Arizona, an NFC team, on the local Fox affiliate had a 35.2 rating, down about 10 percent from 39.1 for the New York Giants game in 2015 but up about 10 percent from a 32.7 for early season games against Chicago and Detroit in 2014.
CBS non-Bills games: WIVB-TV (Channel 4), the local CBS affiliate, is averaging an 11.9 rating for five games not involving the Bills. That’s down about 12 percent from a 13.6 rating from 2015 and down about 33 percent from the 17.6 rating in 2014.
Thursday Night Football: Two games carried by Channel 4 averaged a 10.1 rating, down about 20 percent from a 12.7 rating for four games in 2015 but very close to the 10.3 for four games in 2014.
Fox non-Bills games: The four games have averaged a 10.4 rating, up about 25 percent from an 8.4 rating for four games in 2015 and up about 15 percent from the 9.0 rating for four games in 2014. Notably, two Dallas and two New York Giants games were carried this season, which could have led to the increase.
Sunday Night Football: The games on Channel 2, the local NBC affiliate, have averaged a 14.0 and that grows to a 14.5 when the game opposite a presidential debate is eliminated. The 14.5 rating is about eight percent lower than the 15.8 rating from 2015, but about 5 percent higher than the 13.9 in 2014.
Monday Night Football: The cable games have averaged an 8.1 rating, which grows to an 8.3 rating when the game that was played opposite a presidential debate is eliminated. That is about 10 percent below the 9.3 rating at this time in 2015 and about 17 percent below the 10.0 in 2014.