NFL TV Ratings Remain Steady Following Domestic Abuse Criticism

National Football League television ratings haven’t been affected by a second week of criticism surrounding the handling of domestic abuse cases by players including Ray Rice.

“There is a humongous appetite for the NFL and the off-the-field incidents so far haven’t had an impact on ratings,” said Brad Adgate, director of research at New York-based Horizon Media. “There has been nothing noticeable in the audience delivery of the NFL this year from a year ago.”

The third Sunday of the NFL season unfolded two days after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell rejected calls to resign while pledging to toughen the league’s personal conduct policy. Some women’s groups continued to call for Goodell’s ouster following his news conference over the handling of the case involving former Baltimore Ravens running back Rice.

Yesterday’s games on Fox, CBS and NBC were seen in an average of 13.15 percent of homes in the top 56 television markets, a rise of 7 percent over Week 3 of the 2013 NFL season, according to Nielsen data.

Besides Rice, who was released by the Ravens and suspended indefinitely by Goodell after an initial two-game ban, 2012 league Most Valuable Player Adrian Peterson was indicted in Texas for child abuse for disciplining his four-year-old son with a thin tree branch.

Minnesota Vikings running back Peterson and Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy, who is appealing a 60-day suspended jail sentence he received in July for assaulting a former girlfriend, were placed on the NFL’s Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission list and left their teams Sept. 17.

Two days later, Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer was placed on the reserve/non-football illness list after being arrested for head-butting his wife in the face, breaking her nose, and throwing a shoe at their 17-month-old son in July.

McDonald Plays

San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald on Aug. 31 was arrested on felony domestic violence charges, three days after Goodell stiffened the penalties for such offenses. The 49ers have refused to stop fielding the player and he had three tackles in yesterday’s 23-14 defeat to the Cardinals.

CBS Corp.’s national coverage of the NFL yesterday, which concluded with the Seattle Seahawks’ 26-20 overtime win over the Denver Broncos in a rematch of February’s Super Bowl, drew a 16.9 major-market rating, the network said in a news release. That was 16 percent higher than the 14.6 rating CBS drew during Week 3 last year.

Fox Drops

Fox’s coverage of regional games yesterday drew a 12.2 major-market rating for the 21st Century Fox Inc. network, down 8.3 percent from 2013.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 37-19 win over the Carolina Panthers on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” drew a 12.3 major-market rating, 12 percent less than the 14.0 rating the Comcast Corp. network drew for Week 2, a game that featured the larger markets of Chicago and San Francisco.

With the New York Jets hosting the Chicago Bears tonight on ESPN, complete Week 3 ratings aren’t available. Through the first two weeks, the NFL’s games across networks had averaged an 11.2 national rating, up slightly from last season’s 11.15 average rating, according to Nielsen data.

Goodell’s 45-minute news conference on Sept. 19, which aired live on several on TV networks, came after league sponsors such as Anheuser-Busch InBev NV and PepsiCo Inc. criticized the NFL’s handling of the Rice situation and other domestic abuse cases, as well as the child-abuse indictment of Peterson.

The NFL will continue to react to its sponsors and work to appease them, Adgate said in a telephone interview.

“There’s $10 billion in revenue and a lot of it is being supported by advertisers,” Adgate said.

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