NFL Wrap: ESPN Has Lowest Rated, Least-Viewed “MNF” Season Since ’08

Posted by | December 26, 2012 at 5:48 PM

Saddled with a fairly weak schedule, “Monday Night Football” stumbled to a four-year low on ESPN.

Seventeen regular season NFL telecasts averaged an 8.2 U.S. rating and 12.8 million viewers on ESPN, down 2% in ratings and 3% in viewership from last year (8.4, 13.3M), and down 10% and 13%, respectively, from 2010 (9.1, 14.6M).

This marks the lowest-rated and least-viewed “Monday Night Football” season since 2008 (7.6, 12.0M).

Part of the problem this season was a second-half schedule that featured several sub-.500 teams. The final five weeks of the season included the 3-7 Panthers against the 2-8 Eagles (7.0, 10.8M), the 6-7 Jets against the 4-9 Titans (6.6, 10.1M), and the 4-10 Lions facing the NFC leading Falcons (6.0, 9.7M).

Not surprisingly, the highest rated and most-viewed “MNF” game of the season was the only one the feature the Cowboys — Bears/Cowboys in Week 4 (10.5, 16.6M). The second-highest rated was the controversial Packers/Seahawks game in Week 3 (10.3), and the second-most viewed was Giants/Washington in Week 13 (16.2M).

On the other end of the spectrum, the previously-mentioned Falcons/Lions game in Week 16 was the lowest rated and least-viewed game of the season (6.0, 9.7M). The second-lowest rating was a 6.6 for both Jets/Titans in Week 15 and Lions/Bears in Week 7. The Week 7 game aired opposite Game 7 of the NLCS on FOX and a presidential debate.

Despite the four-year low, “Monday Night Football” was still the dominant television program of the year on cable television. In every week of the season, “MNF” won the night among adults 18-34 and all three key male demographics (18-34, 18-49 and 25-54).

Ratings/Viewership For NFL on ESPN
2012 regular season

WK # Date Away Home Net Rating Viewers
1 Mon., 9/10/12 Bengals Ravens ESPN
7.0
10.9M
Chargers Raiders ESPN
6.8
10.5M
2 Mon., 9/17/12 Broncos Falcons ESPN
10.0
15.5M
3 Mon., 9/24/12 Packers Seahawks ESPN
10.3
16.2M
4 Mon., 10/1/12 Bears Cowboys ESPN
10.5
16.6M
5 Mon., 10/8/12 Texans Jets ESPN
9.0
14.0M
6 Mon., 10/15/12 Broncos Chargers ESPN
8.2
12.8M
7 Mon., 10/22/12 Lions Bears ESPN
6.6
10.7M
8 Mon., 10/29/12 Niners Cardinals ESPN
6.8
10.7M
9 Mon., 11/5/12 Eagles Saints ESPN
8.2
12.9M
10 Mon., 11/12/12 Chiefs Steelers ESPN
8.2
12.8M
11 Mon., 11/19/12 Bears Niners ESPN
7.9
12.5M
12 Mon., 11/26/12 Panthers Eagles ESPN
7.0
10.8M
13 Mon., 12/3/12 Giants Washington ESPN
10.2
16.2M
14 Mon., 12/10/12 Texans Patriots ESPN
9.0
14.5M
15 Mon., 12/17/12 Jets Titans ESPN
6.6
10.1M
16 Sat., 12/22/12 Falcons Lions ESPN
6.0
9.7M

(Season averages from ESPN)

  • TheLoweDown

    Obviously ESPN can’t predict the future in terms of what teams will be like at the end of the season, but they have to get better at picking compelling games toward the end of a season, even if viewers are saddled with NY teams or Dallas. Of course, even with those teams, the matchups still have to be compelling. Jets-Titans wouldn’t have been compelling even if the Jets weren’t stinking up the joint. No one expected TEN do well this season.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=554953194 Chad Patrick

    I understand getting other teams … maybe not so good teams… into MNF (Titans for example).  But they should frontload these games in the season so that fans of those teams will watch before their hopes of a good season are dashed.

  • Rainyshoes

    I think another factor may have been perpetual Thursday Night Football throughout the season. By the time we consider Thursday Night Football, Saturday games (for those of us who follow college ball) and all of Sunday’s games, Monday Night Football isn’t as much of a treat anymore. Add to that the lack of compelling games and…bleh. I know I tuned out MNF plenty of times this season (the first season I’ve ever skipped any MNF games) because I was just football-ed out by that time and nothing exciting was scheduled anyway.

  • http://twitter.com/stpoodlegirl Kelly Pridgen

    They should have left it on ABC