“Thursday Night Football” gave football fans something of a surprise as the San Francisco 49ers hosted the Los Angeles Rams at Levi’s Stadium in a barn-burner of a football game, ending with an enthralling fourth quarter by the Niners before falling just short of completing the comeback.
The Rams’ 41-39 victory was a shootout – and some of the most exciting “Thursday Night Football” fans had seen in recent memory, featuring a successful onside-kick attempt, late turnovers, and a backdoor cover that sent gamblers home either elated or furious.
There was even an uptick in TV viewership:
Rams/49ers posts 4.4 rating & 7.4M viewers on @NFLNetwork. Thats up +18% & +22% vs 2016 avg across 4 TNF games on NFL Network
— Alex Riethmiller (@AlexRiethmiller) September 22, 2017
But the game also served as a reminder of one of the NFL’s recent woes: poor attendance.
Shots of the stadium, like the one above, made clear that attendance was dismal for the primetime game. Despite claims that attendance was over 70,000, anyone with eyes could see that the stadium was largely empty, with even some of the best seats in the lower bowl left untaken.
As SFGate noted, tickets were available on secondary markets for just $14 – about the price of a beer and hot dog inside the stadium. And still, few people found the time to support the Niners in person.
People on the internet took notice, inspiring headlines including “The 49ers and Rams Played a Great Game in Front of an Empty Stadium” at The Big Lead and “It Appears Not Many People are Physically at the Rams-49ers Thursday Night Game” from Sports Illustrated.
Additionally, Twitter was quick point out the empty seats, sharing images far and wide of the empty stadium:
— Kent Porter (@kentphotos) September 22, 2017
— Michael Peredo (@MichaelPeredo) September 21, 2017
— Colin Resch (@colinresch) September 22, 2017
The Niners aren’t the only team struggling to get fans into their stadium on game day – their opponents on Thursday have also started the season in an empty home.
Playing at the storied Los Angeles Coliseum, the Rams opened their season in front of roughly 25,000 people in a stadium that can hold almost four times that. And Los Angeles’ newest team in town, the Chargers, have seen visibly poor attendance despite playing their season in a converted soccer stadium that can hold only 27,000 people.
Last weekend, both Los Angeles teams hosted NFL games, and their ticket sales combined didn’t reach the number that USC and Texas drew to the Coliseum on Saturday night.
The attendance for the USC game was more than the Chargers and Rams' attendances combined. pic.twitter.com/Pt96Vec5n4
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 18, 2017
After years of fighting to bring one team – and now two – to Los Angeles, the NFL, as well as the Chargers and Rams, is going to have to figure out a way to start generating interest in the teams.
The Niners don’t have another home game until October 22, when the Dallas Cowboys come to town. It’s not a nationally televised primetime game like Thursday’s matchup, so if attendance is low once again, at least fewer people will see it.