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Gaining Yardage: Local TV ratings rise for 21 of NFL’s 32 teams, including key Los Angeles market

By John Ourand
The Chargers just missed making the playoffs, but local ratings for the team’s games still rose 25% over the previous season.getty images

The NFL could be on its way to solving its local TV problems in the country’s second-biggest media market.

 

In a season where 21 of the league’s 32 teams posted local TV ratings increases, the performance of the two teams in Los Angeles stood out.

The Chargers posted the league’s biggest increase, as the team’s games in the Los Angeles market jumped by 25% over last season. The Rams also showed a lot of local TV strength this season, as their games posted a 14% ratings jump over last season.

Both teams’ on-field play stood out this season, which, of course, helped attract viewers. The Rams won the NFC West and earned a No. 4 seed in the playoffs. The Chargers were knocked out of playoff contention in the season’s final game.

New York and Chicago — the country’s largest and third-largest TV markets — present a different story. The Giants had four wins this season and the Bears had six. Both teams saw 14% drops in their local TV ratings this season.

The four-win New York Jets actually saw a TV ratings increase of 8%, but their 7.12 local rating is the league’s lowest.

These three big markets are critically important to the league’s media business as the three combined make up roughly 12% of the U.S. television market.

During a regular season when the NFL saw a 10% uptick in TV ratings and streaming numbers nationally, the overall performance in these big markets show that there’s still a lot of room for growth.

Historically, big market teams post smaller ratings than smaller market franchises, so it’s not surprising to see the four New York and Los Angeles teams bunched up at the bottom of the ratings chart.

But if the league can grow ratings by 10% in these two market — which is not a stretch in New York, which regularly hit those figures a decade ago — it could add a full percentage point to its national viewership and would affect TV network revenue by tens of millions of dollars, TV network executives have said.

The NFL’s best local TV story came out of Dallas, where the Cowboys’ ratings jumped 23% — the league’s second-biggest increase. During a season when they won the NFC East, the Cowboys’ local TV ratings in the Dallas-Fort Worth market were the ninth-highest in the NFL. Just a season ago, when the Cowboys failed to make the playoffs, Dallas had the league’s 17th-highest rating.

That continues a theme that affects local TV ratings more than any other factor: Teams that do well on the field get higher ratings than the teams that don’t.

The AFC East champion Buffalo Bills had the league’s highest local TV rating, with a 47.16, edging out last season’s local TV champ, the Kansas City Chiefs (45.28).

Of note: Four teams posted local ratings over 40, including the Bills, Chiefs, Green Bay Packers (41.57 rating in the Milwaukee market) and the Saints (40.89 in New Orleans).

One of the roughest stories is in Pittsburgh. The Steelers usually post local ratings well over 40. But this season, the last for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers’ local TV ratings dropped 10% to a 36.24.

Research compiled by David Broughton.

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