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Television ratings for Chiefs' NFL opener were down nationally, but not in Kansas City

Kansas City Star logo Kansas City Star 9/11/2020 By Blair Kerkhoff, The Kansas City Star

Chiefs fans couldn’t wait to see their Super Bow champions return to action Thursday night. The rest of the nation apparently didn’t share that enthusiasm based on early returns for television ratings.

The Chiefs 34-20 victory over the Houston Texans averaged 20.3 million viewers across NBC’s platforms, according to Nielsen. That’s a drop from last year’s kickoff game between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears to celebrate the NFL’s 100th season. That game, also on NBC, ended up with a viewership of about 22.7 million.

Thursday’s game attracted a national rating of 11.2 with a 23 share. In local markets, Kansas City led the way with a 47.8 rating and 71 share. Rounding out the top five: Houston, Denver, Austin and Indianapolis.

The national appeal of Chiefs-Texans revolved around the quarterback matchup between KC’s Patrick Mahomes and Houston’s Deshaun Watson, a rematch of a 2019 postseason playoff game, and a return to action that, unlike nearly every other sport affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, started its season on time.

One factor that may have worked against a higher rating was the fact that the Chiefs scored 31 straight points after falling behind 7-0. That removed some of the drama from the game. And although Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium is one of the few venues in the NFL that is permitting a limited number of fans to attend home games, Thursday’s relatively sparse attendance (15,895) didn’t make for a spectacle.

Also, there were no preseason games to whet the appetite of football fans this summer because of the pandemic. And with the sports calendar bunched up — NBA playoffs, Stanley Cup playoffs, U.S. Open tennis, MLB baseball — sports-viewing options were plentiful Thursday night.

Were pre-game displays of unity against social injustice by players and coaches a factor in the number of viewers that tuned in, and perhaps a sign of things to come for NFL viewership?

Politics may be involved in a ratings drop for the NBA Playoffs. Viewership fell after a brief player-led boycott the previous week and are down more than 20 percent from 2019.

A Harris Poll released earlier this month surveyed nearly 2,000 people and gave respondents 10 reasons why they are watching less basketball. The biggest reason — 39 percent — for the decline was, “The league has become too political.” Second, at 28 percent, was, “Boring without fans.”

Before Thursday’s game, Chiefs players stood together across the goal line for the playing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a song sometimes referred to as the Black anthem.

During the national anthem, one Chiefs player, defensive end Alex Okafor, took a knee and raised his fist in the air. Teammates Chris Jones and Khalen Saunders rested their hands on his shoulders.

The Texans weren’t on the field for either song. But they later joined the Chiefs during a midfield show of unity, with players and Chiefs coach Andy Reid linking arms. Some Chiefs fans booed this moment.

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©2020 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

Visit The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) at www.kansascity.com

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