'Monday Night Football' Ratings Buck NFL Trend & Rise Over Last Week & 2016

Oroville restaurant and bar boycotts Monday Night Football over player flag protest

This will be hard to explain for the people who complain about NFL protests and like to take credit for the drop in the league's television ratings: With more protests and demonstrations in Week 3 than any other week in NFL history, ratings were up.

It was a tumultuous weekend for the National Football League in more ways than one.

Nielsen said the games averaged 17.63 million viewers for the first three weeks of last season, and have dipped to 15.77 million this year.

Offering at least some anecdotal evidence that the NFL's current ratings predicament is not one with a cut- and-dry cause, Monday Night Football viewership surged on Monday night - helping Week 3 of the season finish in the black, after all. Overnight ratings for its singleheader slate of games were down 16% compared to last year's week 3 numbers.

To come up with overnight ratings, Nielsen takes the percentage of households watching in 56 US markets and comes up with an overnight average - so an 11.6, for instance, means that 11.6% of households in those 54 markets tuned into the game on NBC on Sunday night.

The networks saw huge boosts for their pregame shows, though.

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Overnight ratings for the telecast fell to a 11.6 rating for the game where the New York Giants defeated the Oakland Raiders.

CBS' pregame show, "The NFL Today", was up 33% compared to a year ago, and scored its best overnight rating since 2010.

The president suggests that the national anthem protests pioneered by Colin Kaepernick has played a role in declining ratings.

However, in another reminder of the influence of the ex-Celebrity Apprentice host-turned-POTUS on the numbers, last year's comparable MNF matchup, Atlanta-New Orleans, was going head-to-head with the first Presidential debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton, which pushed MNF to an all-time low.

'NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN, ' Trump tweeted Sunday, prior to NBC's broadcast of Sunday Night Football. At the Bears game vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers, visiting players chose to stay in the locker room during the playing of the National Anthem, with one exception being former Army Rangers and Steelers' player Alejandro Villenueva, who openly stood with his hand on his heart on outside the visitors' tunnel. Fox "addressed the subject in the same manner as its competitors", beginning their show with a "quick preview of the upcoming Week 3 games before heading immediately into Trump's comments (they did bleep the word "bitch") and statements and tweets from National Football League executives and players".

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