NFL vs. Clinton — Clinton wins.
By the time the dust settled, the NFL’s season kickoff game Wednesday between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys had fumbled away about 3 million viewers compared with last year’s season starter.
For about one hour of Wednesday’s game — in which the Cowboys beat the Giants, 24-17 — it competed for viewers against Bill Clinton at the Democratic National Convention. The game averaged 23.123 million viewers from 10:30 to 11:30 p.m.
The former president’s address — which began about 10:30 p.m. and wrapped at 11:22 p.m. — averaged 22.769 million viewers across a collection of commercial networks, including ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News Channel.
That puts Clinton just 354,000 viewers behind the Giants and Cowboys.
Digging deeper, though, Current TV’s DNC coverage in that hour averaged 197,000 viewers. And when contacted by the TV Column, PBS — whose numbers are not given to reporters by Nielsen — estimated that its Clinton coverage at the DNC averaged about 4 million viewers, based on Nielsen fast-national statistics.
Which puts Clinton over the top.
In its defense, the NFL kicked off its season on a Wednesday night, which is practically a crime against nature. That occurred because NBC and the NFL decided that pre-empting the president of the United States to start football season on Thursday — *Like God Intended — would probably be bad PR, not to mention bad politics.
President Obama was scheduled to address the DNC at 10 p.m. Thursday.
There has not been an NFL game on a Wednesday night since 1948, NBC said Thursday, which means no one really important to NBC — the network sells 18- to-49-year-old viewers to advertisers — had ever seen a Wednesday night NFL game.
According to Nielsen, the game averaged about 24 million viewers from kickoff (at 8:41 p.m.) until 11:30 p.m., which was, as we said, about 3 million viewers shy of last year’s NFL season kickoff between the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints, which aired on a Thursday, *LGI.
Last night’s opener was still the third-most-watched “NFL Kickoff Game” in 11 years, though.
The game scored a much bigger crowd for NBC than has any night of its RNC or DNC coverage. And with no DNC coverage on NBC — the usual broadcast-news front-runner — ABC was Wednesday’s big winner, finally getting its moment in the spotlight as the most watched network on a convention night.
In the 10 to 11 p.m. hour — which is the hour each night that the broadcast networks have interrupted their prime time to dip into convention coverage and therefore the hour in which each night’s convention headliner appears (and sometimes runs over, like Clinton) — ABC averaged 4.59 million viewers.
But, really, ABC was just the first car in a 4 million-viewer traffic jam of networks at 10 p.m. CBS had an average of 4.4 million viewers, MSNBC logged 4.37 million and CNN snagged 4.134 million in that hour. Fox News Channel brought up the rear with an average of 3.1 million.
That said, FNC was the only cable news network to score a bigger crowd than that same night at the DNC four years ago.
To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, go to washingtonpost.com/