Which team won NFL battle for eyeballs?

Published 10:12 am Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Pothole Prairie by Tim Engstrom

The NFL regular season is over, and the Super Bowl is coming up Feb. 1. Unfortunately, the Minnesota Vikings aren’t in the big game. Finishing at 7-9, they failed to make the playoffs.

But let’s find out how the Vikings did in the other contact sport the NFL teams play — TV ratings.

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In the 2014 regular season, the Vikings placed 13th among the 32 NFL teams in local market ratings, according to annual figures released earlier this month by the Sports Business Daily. The Vikes are above the league average, but down from last year.

The figure seeks to gauge how much of the TV market where each NFL team plays watched the games. On Sunday afternoons from September to December hardly anybody is outside because they are watching the Vikings.

The Vikings had a 32.3 market rating in 2014, down from 32.8 in 2013 — I would guess probably due to not having star running back Adrian Peterson on the field and losing games early in the season. Hope of a postseason can affect TV ratings.

What does 32.3 mean? It is the percentage of households watching the Vikings compared to all the households with a television in the Twin Cities market. So on average 32.3 percent of people with TV sets were watching the games each week. The rest were either watching golf, visiting grandma in the nursing home or outside pulling weeds in the garden, stuff like that. If you don’t own a TV set, then you don’t even factor. Ratings folks don’t care about you.

The point is, the NFL cares a lot about people watching their local teams play.

The Vikings were 5-10-1 in 2013, and it was their final season in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. (For some reason, I like that Star Tribune writes out the entire name once in a while.) Coach Leslie Frazier was fired at the end of that season.

The Vikings had a pretty good market rating of 33.4 in 2012, which was good enough for eighth place among NFL teams. It was the year Peterson won Most Valuable Player and came nine yards shy of breaking the single-season rushing record. The team was 10-6, beat the hated Green Bay Packers in the final regular season game and made the playoffs.

If you are wondering why the Vikings want Adrian Peterson back, just look at the TV ratings he brings. It’s one of the reasons anyway. He’s good — and he’s fun to watch.

The Vikes were 3-13 in 2011 and posted a lousy market rating of 31.3. To be sure, even when our team is bad, they do better than most of the teams. For instance, they always do better than the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions. The Bears had 27.5 in 2014, and the Lions 27.6.

Being good year after year can really push market ratings up. The Packers topped the list this year with 45.2. The Saints, who started off well but collapsed, were second with 42.8, down from 52.0 and No. 1 in 2013. The Seahawks used to have mediocre ratings and were one of the teams the Vikings always outperformed in the TV ratings game. Now they are a top-tier TV gig. The Seahawks had a rating in 2014 of 42.3, up from 38.6 in 2013, 28.3 in 2012 and — get this — 21.8 in 2011. Wow! That’s a 94 percent increase over three years.

The biggest jump this past year happened to the Arizona Cardinals. They garnered only a 27.5 rating, but that was up from 21.5 in 2013, which indicates a 28.1 percent increase.

Back in 2010, the Vikings were sixth place in the local TV market ratings, with a 34.5 share. The team finished 6-10, fired coach Brad Childress in November and had the Metrodome roof collapse. All that drama and having fan favorite Brett Favre at quarterback likely helped the TV ratings.

In 2009, Favre led the Vikings to a 10-6 record. They won a division title and were an overtime period away from going to the Super Bowl. The Vikings posted a 38.7 rating for the regular season, which at the time was good enough to be third-best in the NFL.

All in all, the Vikings have a fan base that is more loyal than most teams. But there are fair-weather fans here, like anywhere, who can propel the team to excellent ratings should the team succeed. After all, the game between the Vikings and Saints — two strong fan bases — in January 2010 remains the most-watched conference championship game in this century, even more than the thrilling evening battle between the Seahawks and the 49ers last year.

That Vikings-Saints game remains second place behind the conference title game between the Cowboys and 49ers in January 1982. That was the game with The Catch.

Overall playoff ratings this year are some of the best ever, I understand. The figures from Sunday are still to be seen.

I write this as I wear my new Teddy Bridgewater jersey, which my mom and stepdad gave me for Christmas. I am optimistic about this kid and about his coach, Mike Zimmer. You just watch. A top-notch Vikings squad could lead the league in local TV ratings.

What are you doing on Sunday afternoons?


Tribune Editor Tim Engstrom’s columns appear every Tuesday.

About Tim Engstrom

Tim Engstrom is the editor of the Albert Lea Tribune. He resides in Albert Lea with his wife, two sons and dog.

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