The NFL’s 100th season kicked off Thursday with the oldest, most storied rivalry in the league: The Green Bay Packers playing the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.
But the results on the field were anything but grand as the Bears lost to the Packers 10-3 in a lackluster game panned on social media.
The ratings results however, were another story.
Despite the odious quality of the game, the NFL’s season opener was a ratings success, drawing a 15.3 household rating and 28 share in the nation’s 56 overnight markets. According to final ratings released Friday afternoon, the game drew 22.0 million viewers, marking it as the most-watched program since the Super Bowl. In the overnights, the game was up 14 percent from last year’s weather-delayed Falcons-Eagles contest, and up 7 percent nationally from last year’s Bears-Packers opener of Sunday Night Football.
Fast nationals provided by Nielsen showed the game dominated all prime-time competition in the adult 18-49 demo.
In Chicago, the game earned a 35.3/56 household rating and share, only behind Milwaukee’s 48.1/69. But the big story was the ratings growth in markets such as Pittsburgh and Providence, where the numbers were up 23 percent and 36 percent respectively as the states both markets are located in have statewide mobile betting. So far, only the Indiana portion of the Chicago market has legalized sports betting; Illinois’ turn at the craps table doesn’t come until 2020 at the earliest as the state writes regulations to deal with gambling.
— NBC Sports PR (@NBCSportsPR) September 6, 2019
The Chicago number was essentially flat from last year’s game against the Packers at Lambeau Field. Of note this is the ninth consecutive year a Bears-Packers game has been featured in prime-time on either NBC, CBS, or ESPN.
Despite what you thought of the game (and if you weren’t a Packers fan, the game was a total joke), viewers did tune in – even if it was to bet on how many times Bears QB Mitch Trubisky was sacked.
On a side note, there was more proof Chicagoans were ready for the season by honoring one of the team’s all-time great running backs. Wednesday’s WGN-TV special Savoring Sweetness: The Life And Times Of Walter Payton won its 7 p.m. time period with more than 170,000 households tuning in, topping reality tripe America’s Got Talent, MasterChef, and Big Brother. The Chicago Tribune recently named Payton the top all-time greatest Bear player.
As for the current Bears team on the field, the decision to not play their starters did not pay off as the team looked very rusty on the field and completely out-of-sync. And as expected, sports talk radio on Friday morning was buzzing. In other words, if you thought fans complaining about the Cubs during the last few months was something, you haven’t seen nothing yet. The only thing to look for is whether callers would confuse Matt Nagy with Joe Maddon when calling for someone’s firing.