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COMMENTARY

Despite wins, ratings for Bills preseason games down

Buffalo Bills fans appear to be tiring of preseason football, despite the team’s three straight victories.

The Bills’ 24-20 victory over the Detroit Lions on Friday night had a 15.0 rating on WIVB-TV, the local CBS affiliate. The rating peaked at 17.4 at 8:15 p.m. and hit a low of 12.9 at game’s end.

That’s the lowest-rated of the three preseason games so far but it comes with an asterisk.

The game was unavailable to about 90,000 DirecTV households who have lost WIVB because of an ongoing dispute between the owner of the satellite service and WIVB’s owner – unless they found alternative ways to watch it.

The easiest alternative way was to watch over-the-air via a decent antenna, some of which have been provided by DirecTV to subscribers.

The Bills' previous preseason game, a 27-14 victory over the Carolina Panthers a week earlier, had a 16.2 rating on WKBW-TV, the local ABC affiliate. That game was available to DirecTV subscribers here.

The Bills' 24-16 victory over Indianapolis in the preseason opener on Aug. at New Era Field had a 21.3 rating.

Bills games are by far the highest-rated TV programs of the summer in Buffalo. The highest-rated prime time entertainment program Friday night opposite the Bills game had a 2.6 rating.

The preseason ratings this year have dropped from the 2018 preseason when Bills fans were interested in the development of then rookie quarterback Josh Allen. The first three games this season have averaged a 17.5 rating, which is about 22% lower than the four preseason games averaged a year ago. (Only one wasn't carried on DirecTV).

The four preseason games in 2018 averaged a 22.4 rating, with the fourth game the lowest-rated at 18.1 for a 28-27 win over the Chicago Bears.

Some DirecTV subscribers – the service has about 15% of available households – said they were able to watch the Bills-Lions game on CBS All Access with varying results. The streaming service costs $5.99 to receive all new and old CBS programs and allows a one-week free trial.

Some readers said they had no problems with the CBS All Access stream, while others said the picture wasn’t clear and the experience was very disappointing.

I suspect the clarity might have had something to do with the speed of their internet. I have Spectrum’s highest speed internet and the game came through crystal clear on my computer.

Another enterprising DirecTV subscriber said he was able to watch the game on his cellphone via the NFL mobile app, which is free.

According to reports, you are unable to move the stream from your cellphone to your TV. However, it is something to check out if the Nexstar-AT& T dispute continues in the regular season.

Some readers in Buffalo concerned that the dispute could continue during the regular season asked if you can watch Bills regular season games on DirecTV via the NFL Sunday Ticket.

The answer is no. Games going into the local markets are blacked out on the Sunday Ticket.

There are multiple other streaming services that offer NFL games with some restrictions for a fee.

But the best thing for DirecTV subscribers who are Bills fans or fans of CBS prime-time programming is for a Nexstar-AT&T deal to be made before the Bills regular season opener on Sept. 8 and the prime time TV season premieres shortly after that.

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