Packers-Saints NFL kickoff down in ratings

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Thursday’s night’s Green Bay Packers victory over the New Orleans Saints delivered reliably huge ratings for NBC. But the game was nevertheless down a bit compared with last year’s NFL season kickoff. Which leads to a question:

Has football finally peaked as a TV phenomenon?

Thursday’s game tackled a 17.2 overnight rating/28 share, making it the second-highest-rated NFL kickoff game in 13 years, according to early ratings from Nielsen. (Final figures won’t be available until later Friday.) But still, it was down 3% compared with last year’s gigantic opener between the Saints and the Minnesota Vikings.


That could be significant because NFL ratings over the last few years have been on a skyrocket straight up. Even mild softness for the season opener could indicate that fans’ appetite for pro football isn’t limitless after all -- which might be bad news for NBC and other networks that have shelled out huge dollars for football rights packages.

On the other hand, Thursday’s battle was between two small-market teams -- although their legends make them popular far beyond their home base. The Packers also led for the entire second half, which made the game less suspenseful than a seesaw contest would have been. Also, viewing might have been thrown off a bit by President Obama’s jobs speech that was carried live before the game. NBC easily won the night, of course, and the numbers could always rise when the final data come out.

Stay tuned.


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--Scott Collins (