CBS's first Thursday Night Football game of the season drew 28 percent fewer viewers than last season's inaugural prime-time game on the network. But don't blame Twitter.
While the New York Jets-Buffalo Bills matchup was also the first of 10 Thursday Night Football games that to be livestreamed on Twitter this season, the game had an average digital audience of 314,000 per minute, including viewers streaming on Twitter, NFL Mobile from Verizon, Watch NFL Network and authenticated users on CBS Digital platforms. On Twitter alone, the game averaged 243,000 viewers per minute, with each viewer watching an average of 22 minutes.
The game averaged 15.4 million viewers on CBS and NFL Network—49 times the size of the digital audience—and a 5.4 rating among viewers ages 18 to 49. Those numbers were down 28 percent in the demo and 27 percent in total viewers compared with last year's Thursday Night Football kickoff between the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs (21.18 million total viewers, 7.5 demo rating). The audience drop came even though Thursday night's game remained competitive until the very last play, with the Jets winning, 37-31.
Prime-time NFL ratings, which have been the last remaining reliable source of robust ratings, have been down across the board this season. Last Thursday's NFL kickoff game—which technically is part of NBC's Sunday Night Football package—was watched by 25.2 million viewers (and got a 9.4 demo rating), off around 9 percent from last fall.
And the Sunday Night Football kickoff averaged 23.1 million viewers (and an 8.4 rating among 18- to 49-year-olds), down 16 percent in audience and 18 percent in the demo from last fall's numbers.
Twitter, which paid $10 million for streaming rights to those NFL games, was responsible for selling all digital ad inventory and was looking to sell $50 million in ads. Thursday night's digital ad load, which varied slightly on Twitter's Apple TV, included a variety of categories, such as cellular (Verizon Wireless), theatrical (The Magnificent Seven and Jack Reacher: Never Look Back), financial (Bank of America), retail (Walmart) and restaurant (Subway).
While many users reported the streaming experience was smooth, at least some tuned in just for the novelty and are likely to resume watching it on regular TV in subsequent weeks.
Last October, Yahoo's livestream of a Buffalo Bills-Jacksonville Jaguars game from London—the first game available exclusively on an internet-based platform, aside from the teams' local markets—averaged 2.36 million viewers per minute.