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NFL games are struggling to find a local audience

So much for the idea that NFL ratings will substantially increase because the presidential campaign is over.

It hasn't happened instantly in Western New York, even though three recent, exciting prime time games have gone down to the final plays.

Carolina’s 23-20 victory over the New Orleans on the inaugural NBC telecast of “Thursday Night Football” was one of the lowest-rated prime time games on a broadcast network here in about 13 seasons.

Playing opposite the Buffalo Sabres latest snoozefest loss, the TNF game featuring NFC opponents had a 7.8 rating on Channel 2, the local NBC affiliate. Tampa Bay’s 4-1 win over the Sabres had a 5.4 rating on MSG.

According to one local researcher, the only prime time NFL games on a broadcast network with lower ratings were Green Bay at Chicago in 2006 and Atlanta at St. Louis in 2003. They had 7.6 ratings.

Some close prime time games involving Bills opponents earlier in the week had more encouraging news for the NFL even though they didn't do as well as might have been expected locally considering how exciting the games were.

The New York Giants’ 21-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals – the Bills opponent Sunday – had a 9.3 local rating on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” The good news is that it is better than the local 8.5 average on MNF games this season and the fourth highest-rated out of 11 MNF games locally this season. However, ratings for MNF games remain down by about 15 percent locally from the 10.1 average at this point in the 2015 season and about 10 percent down from the 9.5 average in 2014.

Seattle’s 31-24 thrilling victory over the New England Patriots – a huge draw in WNY -- on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” had a strong 14.5 rating on Channel 2. On a Bills bye week, that was the third-highest SNF game locally this season and the highest-rated since the season's first two SNF games. But it didn’t hit last season’s local average rating of 15.0. SNF’s ratings are down about 16 percent locally from 2015 but only about 2 percent from 2014.

The highest-rated NFL game locally last Sunday was Dallas' exciting 35-30 win over Pittsburgh carried on WUTV, the local Fox affiliate. It had a 16.0 rating on the Bills bye week. It was the highest-rated non-Bills game carried on WUTV this season.

Of course, the SNF and MNF packages each had to compete with one presidential debate, which affected the average ratings for the season.

The election also only ended 10 days ago so things may improve for the NFL as the games become more meaningful. But it isn’t a good sign that ratings for games that are going down to the final seconds aren’t doing better than they have been in Buffalo.



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