TV’s top show comes from a Stamford-based company
STAMFORD — “Sunday Night Football” has clinched the No. 1 primetime show ranking for the 2019-20 television season, marking a record ninth-straight year that the Stamford-based NBC Sports Group’s marquee NFL program has taken the top spot.
Through its 17-week run, “Sunday Night Football” averaged a total of 20.5 million viewers across the NBC broadcast channel and digital platforms, according to data released Wednesday by Nielsen and Adobe Analytics. The total represented a 5 percent increase from the 2018 campaign and a 12 percent uptick from 2017.
“We are extremely proud of our team, which works so hard each week and throughout the year to present ‘Sunday Night Football’,” NBC Sports President Pete Bevacqua said in a statement. “We thank the millions of loyal viewers who tuned in every Sunday and are pleased to share this unprecedented streak with the NFL.”
The show’s average TV-only audience of 20 million surpassed by 34 percent the average viewership for the No. 2 show, Fox’s and the NFL Network’s “Thursday Night Football” and beat by 72 percent the audience for the top scripted show, CBS’s “NCIS.”
Cementing its supremacy, ‘SNF’ claimed the top spot among viewers between the ages of 18 and 49.
Ten of the “Sunday Night Football” broadcasts on NBC averaged more than 20 million TV viewers. Only five other non-NFL postseason primetime telecasts have reached that threshold since last September: Game 7 of the World Series, the Ohio State-Clemson College Football Playoff semifinal, the College Football Playoff championship game, the post-Super Bowl “Masked Singer” and the Academy Awards.
The dominance of “SNF” compares with six straight years, from 2005 to 2011, when “American Idol” was No. 1. “The Cosby Show” in the 1980s and “All in the Family” in the 1970s recorded five consecutive-year runs as the top shows. “Gunsmoke” ranked No. 1 from 1957 to 1961.
At the same time, “Sunday Night Football” faces unprecedented uncertainty for the 2020 season amid the coronavirus crisis.
The season is scheduled to start as scheduled on time on Sept. 10. On that Thursday night, NBC will broadcast the defending champions Kansas City Chiefs’ match-up against the Houston Texans.
But a number of key questions remain unresolved, including whether some or even all of the games will have to be played behind closed doors to comply with social-distancing regulations.
Fan interest in the NFL spiked in the off-season. Last month’s NFL draft attracted an average first-round audience of 15.6 million, up 37 percent year over year, according to CBS Sports. The draft was televised by ABC, ESPN and NFL Network.
“The perennial U.S. sports ratings leader should have the easiest time rebounding from any pandemic-related hiccups,” said Josh Shuart, director of sports management at Sacred Heart University’s Jack Welch College of Business & Technology. “Take the virtual elimination of all live sports and add equal parts cabin fever, and then release that back into ‘the wild.’ I think fan interest will be at an all-time high as a result.”
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