An extra week of games, tight finishes and a year without an election have helped propel the NFL to its highest regular-season odds in six years.
The 272 regular-season games averaged 17.1 million viewers on TV and digital platforms, a 10% increase from 2020 and the league’s highest average since 2015.
“There is a strong argument to be made that the National Football League is the most important entity in popular culture. And the number of viewers watching the NFL confirms that, ”said Marc Ganis, co-founder of Chicago-based consulting group Sportscorp.
Audiences were expected to increase after the 2020 season unfolded amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with empty stadiums exhibiting strange viewing dynamics and changes in viewing habits for many people. . The first half of this season also occurred in the midst of a presidential campaign, when many watched cable news channels.
“Year-over-year ratings and audiences are never a straight line. There are always ins and outs, ”said Hans Schroeder, executive vice president of the NFL and chief operating officer, NFL Media. “2020 has certainly been a unique year in a lot of ways, but when you think about this season with full stadiums and the game itself, it has been an awesome regular season. “
Three of the five TV packages saw double-digit growth. ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” and Fox, NFL Network and Amazon Prime “Thursday Night Football” packages are both up 16% from last season, followed by NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” at 11%. .
It was also the first season the league played 17 regular season games. Despite the extra games, there weren’t many breakouts. According to the league, 64% of all games this season were within one score in the fourth quarter.
NFL games ranked in the top 16 and 91 of the 100 best TV shows during the season, according to Nielsen. The Dallas Cowboys have been in five of the 10 most-watched games, including the Week 12 Thanksgiving game with the Las Vegas Raiders, which averaged 40.8 million viewers on CBS. It was the most-watched regular-season game on all networks in 31 years and one of only two since 1988 to average at least 40 million.
CBS is up 9% from last season, with an average of 18.09 million being the highest since 2015. That includes an average of 21.59 million over its 10 domestic game windows.
Fox’s Sunday games were up 2%, averaging 18.57 million, but had five of the 10 most-watched games. The Week 11 game between the Cowboys and the Kansas City Chiefs led the way with an average of 28.7 million.
The last season of Fox. NFL Network, Amazon Prime Video “Thursday Night Football” averaged 16.4 million. Coincidentally, the biggest game in this package didn’t come on Thursday night but on Christmas Day, when the Cleveland Browns-Green Bay Packers contest averaged $ 28.6 million.
“Sunday Night Football” is on track to become the most-viewed prime-time show for the 11th consecutive season at 19.3 million. Tampa Bay has won NBC’s top two games, including Tom Brady’s return to New England in Week 4 ($ 27.2million).
ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” averaged 14.18 million. It is the network’s best regular-season audience since 2010 and the third since 2006, when the package moved primarily to ABC cable. The nine alternative shows of “Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli” averaged 1.6 million, with the highest being 1.96 million for the New York Giants-Kansas City game in Week 8.
ManningsCast returns for Monday’s wild card game between the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams.
The biggest encouraging factor for all parties is that the number of streams continues to increase steadily. With the expansion of the Peacock, Paramount + and ESPN + offerings, there were 370 billion total minutes aired during the regular season, an 18% jump from 2020 and the second-highest on record behind 2015. .
Those numbers will only increase in the coming years as “Thursday Night Football” heads full-time to Prime Video next season, along with exclusive streaming games on ESPN + and Peacock when the new TV deal begins in July. 2023. The league’s Sunday Ticket package with DirecTV expires after next season, with many expecting multiple operators to bid.
“By streaming you can get real numbers and they’re more accurate,” Ganis said. “What we’ve seen with the NFL and streaming is what we’ve seen with the NFL and cable and satellite TV, who watches the games is TV by date. People will find games. on whatever platform they’re on. This makes it extremely valuable for because one of the things streamers need is a reason for people to go to them in the first place.
“The NFL is a built-in walk-up television. This is already where people want to go. And so I would expect the number of streams to continue to grow by really big percentages every year. “
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