Halfway through a scandal-marred season, NFL TV ratings stay strong – Baltimore Sun (blog)

One of the most remarkable stories in pop culture is the power of the NFL as TV entertainment.

At the start of this scandal-plagued season, some analysts were predicting that ratings for Sunday, Monday and the new CBS Thursday night telecasts were going to suffer because of widely publicized cases of domestic abuse involving Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and other NFL athletes.

But halfway through the football season, the ratings are as good as or better than ever. And with marquee matchups, like Sunday’s between the Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers on NBC, they are expected to rise even higher.

In 2010, I reported that for the first time, the highest-rated show on television was not a sitcom, drama or reality series. It was instead NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.” For the past three years, the telecast has been in a ratings struggle with entertainment series like “NCIS” on CBS to hold that top prime-time spot

So far this year, however, it’s no contest. “Sunday Night Football” is TV’s most-watched prime-time show with an average of 21.8 million viewers a week, while “NCIS” comes in second with an audience of 17.8 million. (That’s live and same-day viewing — the most representative metric for live sports events, which have relatively little replay appeal.)

In the cable world, ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” is averaging 14 million viewers a week, up 7 percent from last year. And last week’s game between the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys drew an audience of 18.81 million viewers, making it the ninth-most-watched game in cable history.

Meanwhile, CBS proved that even as the NFL colonizes every digital platform imaginable with its product, there is more audience available yet on the old-school medium of network TV. The network averaged 16.8 million viewers per game …read more

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