Turkey Trot: Lousy Jets Take a Bite Out of NBC Ratings

T-Day NFL games show some viewer fatigue

While millions of turkey-glutted couch jockeys tuned in for the three national NFL broadcasts on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 22), ratings were either down or failed to meet advertisers’ expectations.

Per Nielsen live-plus-same day data, the early game on CBS (Texans-Lions) delivered 27.3 million viewers and a 13.9 household rating/34 share, marking a slight decline from the year-ago broadcast. On Turkey Day 2011, CBS’ coverage of the Dolphins-Cowboys game delivered 30.9 million viewers and a 14.3 HH rating.

Despite going into overtime—Texans kicker Shayne Graham nailed a 32-yard field goal to secure a 34-31 victory—the game also came up somewhat short on the demo front. CBS averaged a 9.3 rating among adults 18-49, marking an 11 percent decline from the year-ago 10.5. 

Later that afternoon, as Americans began to slide into a collective tryptophan coma, Fox carried the NFC East battle between the Redskins and Cowboys. Robert Griffin III lit up Dallas with four touchdown passes, as 28.7 million viewers watched Washington defeat the home team by a 38-31 margin. As with CBS, Fox was also down a bit from last year’s T-Day broadcast. A year ago, the Packers-Lions game served up 30.2 million total viewers.

Fox’s 13.5 HH rating represented an 8 percent decline from the year-ago 14.8. Demo slippage was negligible, as adults 18-49 dipped 4 percent to a 10.1 rating.

While NBC predicted playoff-level deliveries for its first Thanksgiving prime-time broadcast, a pathetic performance by the New York Jets scared off a sizeable chunk of the audience. After kicking off in front of more than 24 million viewers, the game went off the rails. Among the lowlights for Mark Sanchez and company was the moment when the Jets’ quarterback ran headlong into the posterior of one of his own offensive linemen, a pratfall that resulted in a fumble and a 32-yard touchdown return for the Pats.

So hapless were the Jets that the Pats were able to ring up 21 points on enemy turf in the span of 52 seconds.

Naturally, viewers decided that they’d had quite enough shortly after the self-inflicted butt-fumble. By the time the clock struck 10 p.m. on the East Coast, deliveries dropped below 15 million.

All told, the Jets endured a 49-19 shellacking in front of an average audience of 19.2 million viewers. The game delivered a 7.2 rating in the 18-49 demo.

While the Jets spoiled NBC’s hopes for skyscraper ratings, the NFL’s first nighttime Thanksgiving broadcast easily topped the record set by its in-house network a year ago. On Nov. 24, 2011, NFL Network delivered 10.7 million viewers and a 4.1 in the dollar demo, a tally that did not include over-the-air simulcasts in San Francisco and Baltimore.

At the time, NFL Network was available in just 57.4 million homes, or roughly half of all U.S. TV households. Having recently secured carriage on Time Warner Cable systems, the channel now passes some 70 million cable and satellite homes.