- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The Washington Football Team may have a new name and a new coach, but more people aren’t watching the team this season.

Local television ratings for Washington’s NFL team are down compared to last year, according to a report from NBC Sports Washington. The team drew a 14.3 and 16.5 local rating for their first two games — down from the same window last season.

In 2019, Washington’s season opener at Philadelphia drew a 19.0 rating. Then in Week 2, the then-Redskins drew an 18.3 rating for their home opener against the Cowboys. 

NBC Sports Washington reported the figures from Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand, who shared the numbers on The Kevin Sheehan Show on Wednesday. 

NFL ratings are reportedly down 8% to start the year. The reasons for that have sparked debate. Last week, President Trump blasted the league for its “cratered” ratings, blaming the decline on player protests during the national anthem. Others, like television ratings experts, have argued that the changing television landscape has contributed to the swing. On Sunday, for instance, the NFL went up against the U.S. Open and the NBA playoffs. 

But the league had enjoyed an uptick in recent years. After declining ratings in 2017, the NFL saw back-to-back jumps in average viewership for the next two seasons — with the 2019 campaign up 5% from the prior year. 

According to Showbuzz Daily, the NFL still dominated the sports television landscape throughout last week. From Sept. 14 to Sept. 20, the seven most-watched sporting events were NFL games. ESPN, too, boasted a 31% jump for “Monday Night Football” in Week 2 with an average of 15.7 million viewers. That number, though, was boosted by the fact that the game was on ESPN and ABC.

Unlike last year, Washington saw a jump in viewership from Week 1 to Week 2. The spike followed Washington’s upset win over the Eagles to open the season. Sunday’s loss against the Arizona Cardinals was also in the 4 p.m. window, which tends to draw more viewers. 

Washington, meanwhile, is coming off a 3-13 season in 2019. The team made sweeping changes in the offseason — firing team president Bruce Allen, hiring coach Ron Rivera and later on, retiring the Redskins moniker. 

Last week, owner Dan Snyder left open the possibility of his franchise remaining “The Washington Football Team” if the name catches on among its fanbase. Since retiring the Redskins in July, Washington has undergone a deep rebranding process — switching out the former logo and name around the team’s facility and stadium. It has created new merchandise such as T-shirts, sweatshirts and jerseys. 

For now, it’s been hard to tell how much Washington’s new brand has resonated with fans. There have been jokes knocking the team’s name, from sarcastic “go team” barbs to the overplayed pun using “WFT” and “WTF.” 

According to Fanatics, jersey sales are up 30% across the league, but none of the top five included anyone from Washington. That shouldn’t come as a surprise given that a Washington player didn’t make the top 50 in jersey sales last year, according to the NFL players’ union. 

“The ratings locally are down,” Ourand told Sheehan. “It’s a little bit expected as this team gets its footing. As they start to win, as they start to get competitive, those numbers should go up.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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