Audience ratings for ESPN’s Monday Night Football are down 12 percent so far in a season that’s been dominated by criticism of the National Football League’s handling of domestic abuse allegations against players.
The Chicago Bears’ 27-19 win over the New York Jets last night was seen in 9.2 percent of homes in the top 56 U.S. television markets, according to preliminary data from Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN. That’s an 11 percent decline from last season’s Week 3 game between the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos, which drew a 10.3 rating in the major markets.
Through three weeks, ESPN is averaging a 9.4 major-market rating for Monday Night Football, down 12 percent from the 10.7 average rating at the same point in 2013. Ratings represent a percentage of U.S. TV households.
Professional football is the most popular and valuable programming on broadcast and cable television. CBS Corp. paid $250 million to $300 million for rights to eight Thursday night games, Michael Morris, an analyst at Guggenheim Securities in New York, estimated earlier this year.
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The Monday Night Football season opener was Sept. 8, the same day the website TMZ posted video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking his then-fiancee unconscious in a New Jersey casino elevator. Rice was cut by the team and suspended indefinitely by the NFL, which for the last two weeks has faced criticism over its handling of domestic abuse issues.