Fact check: President Trump's claims about NFL first game ratings


President Trump tweeted on September 9, comparing the size of this year’s first NFL viewership with the previous season, making the following claim:

Donald J. Trump on Twitter

Wow, NFL first game ratings are way down over an already really bad last year comparison. Viewership declined 13%, the lowest in over a decade. If the players stood proudly for our Flag and Anthem, and it is all shown on broadcast, maybe ratings could come back? Otherwise worse!

Claim: 

“Viewership declined 13%, the lowest in over a decade.”

Fact check: Partially true. 

President Trump’s tweet makes two claims:

  1. Viewership of the first NFL game of the 2018/19 season declined 13% over the previous year’s first game.
  2. The viewership reached its lowest point in over a decade.

While the viewership of the first NFL game of the 2018/19 season did decline over the previous year’s first game, it did not decline 13% but fell 8% according to details available at Sports Watch Daily. The first official NFL game of the season between the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles had 19.5 million total viewers (including streaming viewers) compared to 22.2 million from last year’s first game. This reflects a decline of 8.7%, not 13% as the president mentioned in his tweet.

The second point is true in that these viewership numbers are the lowest for an NFL opening game in a decade.

“Ratings for the NFL’s season opener on Thursday night fell 8 percent from last year’s opener — to their lowest level in a decade,” according to the New York Post.

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