According to the New York Daily News, ratings for three of the major NFL pregame shows are down this year. On cable TV, ESPN’s Sunday Countdown is taking a hit. On the major networks, both the CBS pregame show, The NFL Today, and Fox’s NFL Sunday are also down, with their numbers taking a larger hit than ESPN. CBS’s pregame viewership is down 17% compared to this time last year, and Fox’s pregame show is down 15%. The NFL Network Sunday pregame show is the only one that has not taken a hit, with its ratings up slightly from last year.
What’s the reason for this change? In our opinion, too much joking around and not enough actual football analysis. ESPN’s show used to be a go-to for news, with reporters on site at every game, and newsbreakers like Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter bringing up-to-the-minute injury news. Now, that breaking news is still there, but it’s sandwiched with human interest pieces and too much joshing on the set with Chris Berman, who used to be top dog among NFL pregame hosts but is now a shadow of his former self.
The CBS and Fox shows were never that great. Fox employs an on-air comedian who takes up too much of the broadcast time. CBS and Fox both have trouble with the chemistry on set. Hosts Curt Menefee and James Brown are solid, but the former players and coaches offering analysis spend more time poking fun at one another than they do providing insight on the upcoming games.
On the other hand, the NFL Network pregame, hosted by Rich Eisen, fills the void that ESPN once did as the cable show focusing more on football than pregame antics. With NFL Network now in more homes than ever before, it’s no surprise the show is stealing some of the viewership from the other competition.