Sunday night football ratings hit five-year low

|By:, SA News Editor

There was no presidential debate in the way this time. Sunday Night Football on NBC (CMCSA -0.2%), usually a reliable ratings horse, posted its smallest audience in five years.

NBC drew 13.6M viewers (to a not-quite-prime matchup of Indianapolis and Houston), good enough for just the fifth-highest-rated program of the week vs. a usual near-top spot. The new numbers are piling in to a debate about what's happening to football, with an across-the-board ratings decline worrying the wide number of companies and advertisers that count on heavy viewership.

A week ago, with 66.5M viewers watching Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump go at it, Sunday Night Football drew 14.84M viewers (a 26% drop).

The Thursday Night Football game on CBS (CBS -0.5%) slotted in a bit higher as the third-most-watched program, with 14.49M. No. 1: The O.T. on Fox (FOX +1.1%, FOXA +1.1%) with 15.38M, followed by NCIS on CBS with $14.77M, and The Big Bang Theory on CBS at No. 4 with 14.41M.

For the week in prime-time, CBS was No. 1 with 9.1M viewers on average; NBC had 7.2M; ABC (DIS +0.4%) had 5.8M, ahead of Fox's 5.1M. In cable prime-time: Fox News led with 2.44M on average, followed by TBS (TWX +0.9%) at 2.23M and ESPN with 1.99M.

After hours: CMCSA -1.3%.