NEW YORK (AP) NBC's flagship Sunday Night Football game had its smallest audience in five years this week, evidence of the NFL's new deflation issue.
The game between Indianapolis and Houston reached 13.6 million viewers, removing the weekly broadcast from its usual spot at or very close to the top of the Nielsen company ratings. CBS' Thursday night game scored slightly higher.
To be fair, Indianapolis and Houston represents few fans' idea of a marquee matchup. NFL ratings have been down in general this year, leading to much speculation about the cause. Intense interest in the presidential race is thought to be one factor in the slump.
This season, NBC's prime-time games have been down 17 percent from last year, when ratings were at their peak for the telecast.
A continued slump for the NFL, which has been one of the most dependable ways for TV networks to get viewers in recent years, has broad implications. Networks may be forced to offer ''make goods,'' or free commercials, to advertisers if ratings don't pick up. If the downfall is long term, it could impact the prices that networks pay the NFL for broadcast packages.
CBS won the week in prime time, averaging 9.1 million viewers. NBC had 7.2 million, and won among the 18-to-49-year-old demographic advertisers seek. ABC had 5.8 million, Fox had 5.1 million, Telemundo had 1.72 million, Univision had 1.66 million, the CW had 1.6 million and ION Television had 1.1 million.
Fox News Channel was the week's most popular cable network, averaging 2.44 million viewers in prime time. TBS had 2.23 million, ESPN had 1.99 million, MSNBC had 1.55 million and USA had 1.5 million.
ABC's ''World News Tonight'' topped the evening newscasts with an average of 8.3 million viewers. NBC's ''Nightly News'' had 8 million and the ''CBS Evening News'' reached 6.6 million.
For the week of Oct. 10-16, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: ''The O.T.,'' Fox, 15.38 million; ''NCIS,'' CBS, 14.77 million; NFL Football: Denver at San Diego, CBS, 14.49 million; ''The Big Bang Theory,'' CBS, 14.41 million; NFL Football: Indianapolis at Houston, NBC, 13.6 million; ''Bull,'' CBS, 13 million; ''The Voice'' (Monday), NBC, 11.37 million; ''Sunday Night NFL Pre-Kick,'' NBC, 11.01 million; ''NCIS: Los Angeles,'' CBS, 10.89 million; ''The Voice'' (Tuesday), NBC, 10.88 million.
ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox is owned by 21st Century Fox. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks.