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Bills won the preseason on the field. On TV? Not so much

The Buffalo Bills’ 27-23 comeback victory over the Minnesota Vikings Thursday night in the preseason finale had an 18.2 rating on WKBW-TV, the local ABC affiliate, during game action that ended at 10:03 p.m.

The rating declines to a 17.2 if the low-rated postgame portion of the telecast from 10 to 10:30 p.m. is added.

The rating peaked at 20.6 around halftime. The rating was 17.9 from 9:45 to 10 p.m. when Bills rookie quarterback Tyree Jackson hit rookie wide receiver David Sills for the winning touchdown with 8 seconds left in the game.

Thursday’s rating was about 20 percent higher than the 15.0 rating for the Bills' 24-20 victory over the Detroit Lions six nights earlier on WIVB-TV, the local CBS affiliate.

The Bills-Lions game was the lowest-rated of the four preseason victories but that came with an asterisk. That game was unavailable to about 90,000 DirecTV households who had lost WIVB because of a dispute between the owner of the satellite service and WIVB’s owner that was settled Thursday night. That was unless those DirecTV households found alternative ways to watch it.

The easiest alternative way watch the Bills-Lions game over the air was via a decent antenna, some of which have been provided by DirecTV to subscribers before Thursday’s deal was announced.

The Bills' four preseason games – three of which were carried by WKBW in the final year of its TV contract with the Bills before the games switch to WIVB – averaged about a 17.7 rating.

The Bills' 24-16 victory over Indianapolis in the preseason opener on Aug.8 at New Era Field was the highest-rated at 21.3.

Bills games are by far the highest-rated TV programs of the summer in Buffalo. The highest-rated prime time network entertainment program Thursday night opposite the game was the CBS reality program “Big Brother” with a 2.5 rating on WIVB.

Unofficially, the preseason ratings this year dropped about 21 percent from the 2018 preseason when Bills fans were interested in the development of then-rookie quarterback Josh Allen.

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.


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