NFL ratings on hold as Nielsen staff evacuates from storm Irma

By Sheila Dang

(Reuters) – The highly anticipated television ratings for the Sunday night NFL win by the Dallas Cowboys over the New York Giants will be delayed because Nielsen evacuated its ratings staff in Tampa Bay, Florida ahead of Hurricane Irma, the company said on Monday.

After a disappointing season last year with lower viewership, many are watching the National Football League’s early ratings results to see how it fares. Attention in the United States has been focused over the last two weeks on Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which hit the states of Texas and Florida respectively.

The Thursday night season kick-off between the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots on Comcast Corp’s NBC had nearly 13 percent fewer viewers than the previous season’s kick-off, according to Nielsen data.

Nielsen was monitoring the situation in Florida and “ratings will be delayed in the near term,” the company said on its website. A Nielsen spokesman declined to provide additional detail, but said the Tampa Bay office is its main data processing center.

The NFL generates about $2.5 billion in advertising revenue across its programs on NBC, Walt Disney Co’s ESPN, CBS Corp, and FOX, said John Janedis, an equities analyst at Jefferies, in a note on Monday.

Janedis said a 10 percent ad revenue decline could result in a risk to earnings before interest and taxes of $200 million, though he added that it is too early to estimate results for the season.

“The market is hoping for ratings that are in line with last year and would see that as a positive,” Janedis said in an interview.

This season’s NFL lineup of match-ups between highly ranked teams is improved from last year and could result in viewership growth for NBC and ESPN, said Michael Nathanson, senior research analyst at Moffett Nathanson, in a note last week.

The Cowboys and Giants, a popular match-up, also played on a Sunday night in 2015 and posted 26.8 million viewers, which was up 10 percent year over year, Janedis noted.

(Reporting by Sheila Dang; editing by Anna Driver and Rosalba O’Brien)

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