With a battle of NFL lightweights on its docket, ESPN's Monday Night Football fell to a 2010 season low with the Nielsens on Nov. 29.
ESPN's coverage of the San Francisco 49ers' 27-6 dismantling of the Arizona Cardinals -- both squads had been 3-7 entering the game -- averaged a 7.0 U.S. household rating and 11.2 million viewers, according to Nielsen data.
Those averages trailed the 7.2 national rating and 11.7 million viewers that tuned in the network's coverage of the San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos on Nov. 22, as both of those teams fielded losing marks before the Lightning Bolts evened their record that night.
Still, MNF tackled the top ranking on Nov. 29 among viewers, as well as in all key male and adult demos.
Gauged against the corresponding contest during the 2009 season, ESPN sustained a 46% decline in rating from a 12.9 rating and 47% decrease among viewers from 21.4 million viewers for the MNF encounter that saw the New Orleans Saints throttle the New England Patriots last year. That Nov. 30, 2009 telecast drew 21.4 million watchers, making it the second-largest audience in cable history behind the 21.8 million viewers for the Oct. 5 game that year between Brett Favre's Minnesota Vikings and the club he made his Hall of Fame career with, the Green Bay Packers.
Given the back-to-back relatively poor results, ESPN's 2010 season average now lags its record marks from the 2009 campaign. Through 12 weeks and 13 games, ESPN has averaged an 8.9 U.S. rating and 14.2 million viewers, down 2.2% and 2.4%, respectively, from its 9.1 national rating and 14.6 million viewers at the same point last year.
Those averages figure to build with the next MNF matchup, pitting the New York Jets visiting New England Patriots in Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. on Dec. 6. Not only are the rivals tied for the best record in the AFC East and all of the National Football League with the Atlanta Falcons with 9-2 records, but the game matches the nation's first- and seventh-ranked DMAs.