It’s Disingenuous To Say Trump Is Wrong On Ratings

Amber Athey | Media and Breaking News Editor

The battle over NFL ratings has exploded during Week 3 of the season with President Donald Trump tweeting that the ratings are “way down” because of athletes protesting the national anthem.

A number of media outlets–and the NFL–are pointing out that ratings for Week 3 were actually up when you factor in the Monday Night Football game between the Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals.

“Overall, according to the NFL, Week 3 ratings were slightly higher than Week 3 in 2016,” CNN reported. 

NBC Sports similarly reported that “For the weekend as a whole, ESPN and CBS were up, NBC and FOX were down, and on aggregate ratings across the NFL were up about 3 percent from Week Three last year.”

However, as NBC points out in their article, the Monday night Cowboys game greatly skews the ratings because last year’s Week 3 game had to compete with a presidential debate. In fact, the presidential debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton caused the Week 3 MNF game in 2016 to have its lowest viewership in at least 25 years. The debate was the most watched in history at the time, bringing in 80 million viewers.

The Week 3 MNF football game this year saw a 9.3 rating, compared to a 5.7 rating in Week 3 of 2016–that’s a 63 percent increase and a 3.6 percentage point difference.

Of course, it is difficult to tell exactly how much of the ratings jump on MNF is from not having to compete with a presidential debate this year. But it’s not unreasonable to assume that the lack of a debate accounts for most of, if not all, of the overall 3 percent increase in ratings for Week 3.

When considering just the Sunday games, ratings were down from last year. The Sunday Night football matchup between the Redskins and the Raiders was down about 11 percent, and Fox’s Giants vs. Eagles game was down 16 percent.

There may also be some evidence that Trump’s feud with the NFL anthem kneelers has caused viewers to tune in at the beginning of the game to see whether players stand or kneel, as ratings for pregame shows spiked significantly from last year.

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