By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The NFL TV ratings had a big rebound on Sunday night, as the Patriots-Seahawks Super Bowl XLIX rematch posted a 14.3 overnight rating, according to NBC Sports PR on Twitter.
Patriots-Seahawks represents the highest overnight rating for a Sunday Night Football game since 2011 when Patriots-Jets posted a 14.5. The rating is a 13-percent improvement over last season’s Week 10 SNF matchup between the Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals, which posted a 12.6. The game was also the highest-rated NFL broadcast since the season opener between the Patriots and Cardinals, which drew a 14.8.
Michael Mulvihill of Fox Sports tweeted on Monday morning that the network drew an average rating of 14.2 for its Week 10 afternoon slate of games, which is an improvement over 11.7 in 2015. That window included a 35-30 win for the Dallas Cowboys over the Pittsburgh Steelers in a hotly contested matchup of two of the league’s most popular franchises.
Lending credence to the idea that presidential election coverage may have had a significant effect on the ratings, Mulvihill added that news networks like Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC were down about 5 percent against the NFL compared to Week 10 of last season. Cable news networks were also down 32 percent against the NFL compared to last week before the election, as well as down 44 percent against primetime football.
It’s worth noting that Patriots-Seahawks represented the best, most intriguing matchup of the year so far in the NFL, featuring arguably the league’s two best teams. It was also a strong day across the board in terms of the quality of play on the field, including a back-and-forth affair between the Steelers and Cowboys.
For those within the NFL who argued that the election took a large audience away from its ratings, Week 10 was a big win. It remains to be seen, of course, how Giants-Bengals performs on Monday Night Football and how CBS performed in the afternoon slate of games. But anyone predicting a continued year-over-year decline in the TV ratings across the board, even in the face of an ultra-compelling matchup between the Patriots and Seahawks, was sorely mistaken.
The NFL still has plenty of problems that could still be hurting the ratings – excessive commercials and penalty flags, off-field image problems with domestic violence, a backlash to the national anthem protests, cord-cutting – but Patriots-Seahawks and Cowboys-Steelers proved that the league can still draw huge numbers if it simply delivers a worthwhile product to TV screens. And the correlation between the post-election drop for cable news and rise for NFL football cannot be ignored.
Considering how strong the product on the field was for the two biggest-performing games of the weekend, the NFL will need to see continued improvement in the Week 11 ratings to really declare that they are out of the hole they had dug for themselves in the first nine weeks of the season. But for one week, anyway, the NFL got the ratings rebound it sorely needed.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.