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Report: Ratings “up big” over 2018 for second episode of Hard Knocks

Antonio Brown finally made his return to the Raiders' facility, but his timetable to return to practice remains up in the air as his feet are still recovering from frostbite.

With Antonio Brown providing drama literally from toe to head, last night’s episode of Hard Knocks was destined to draw a big crowd. It did.

Austin Karp of Sports Business Daily reports that the audience of Episode 2 was “again up big” in comparison to last year’s second episode of the Browns-focused edition of the series.

The actual number of views and streams has yet to emerge, however. Last week’s total (879,000) quickly did. Until the Episode 2 number is reported or released, it’s possible that, while viewership compares favorable to the second episode of 2018, the viewership possibly doesn’t compare favorably to the first episode of 2019.

Maybe some viewers tuned out after realizing that, while they were getting something about Brown’s situation, it wasn’t really all that much. And while they got much more than last week’s “hardly anything at all” regarding the situation that was keeping Brown from practicing, the final product never mentions how Brown’s foray into a cryotherapy chamber froze his feet. Was there a malfunction? Foul play? Did he fall asleep in there? Or did Brown simply fail to wear proper foot protection?

The last one is the truth, but including that would make Brown look bad. And since the Raiders have final say over the infomercial that is Hard Knocks, the Raiders exercised their privilege to keep that out.

The Raiders also managed to exclude from nearly every frame of the episode the situation regarding Brown’s helmet. Moreover, one of the only clips regarding the situation featued an excerpt from an NFL Network report on the issue that, by claiming Brown’s preferred helmet model had been banned by the league, was factually incorrect.

Both last week and this week, the Raiders knew much, much more about the foot situation and the helmet dispute. The Raiders, in order to avoid including anything that would potentially alienate their best player, managed to keep it out. And that prevents HBO, which typically has an admirable streak of stubborn independence when it comes to excellent programming like Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, from giving its audience a true, accurate, and transparent look at just how hard the Hard Knocks are for the Raiders this year.

UPDATE 6:16 p.m.: According to HBO, the viewership for last night’s episode was 887,000, a 0.9-percent increase over last week’s debut episode.