NFL TV ratings, a look forward: The NFL offseason has arrived after a dramatic and event-filled 2021 campaign.
Below, we look at NFL TV ratings from the 2021 season with the latest updates on Super Bowl LVI and the Los Angeles Rams winning their first ever title in Southern California. We’ve also included the NFL Draft ratings.
Bookmark this page for NFL TV ratings for updates during the 2022 NFL season
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2022 NFL preseason draws a higher audience than marquee NBA, MLB games
Before the 2022 NFL regular season begins, the league already has a few reasons to feel good about what is coming this fall. At a time when pulling in massive audiences is more important than ever and the league explores ways to further increase its revenue, an early look at NFL TV ratings from the preseason show why this remains the No. 1 sport in the United States.
CBS announced that its broadcast of the Week 3 preseason game between the Detroit Lions vs Pittsburgh Steelers was the most-watched NFL preseason game in the NFL this year and its most-watched exhibition NFL game in 9 years.
Putting the 5.81 million viewers into perspective, take a look at how NBA games on Christmas Day 2021 performed. The Atlanta Hawks vs New York Knicks averaged 2.924 million with the Boston Celtics vs Milwaukee Bucks averaging 4.933 million and the evening Los Angeles Lakers vs Brooklyn Nets matchup drew 5.75 million viewers.
We can also compare that to MLB, which drew just under 3.2 million viewers for its Field of Dreams game on Fox. As Jimmy Traina of Sports Illustrated also points out, a Saturday preseason game between the Steelers and Seattle Seahawks broadcasted on NFL Network pulled in a larger audience than Fox’s broadcast of the Boston Red Sox vs New York Yankees.
NFL TV ratings for the season-opening game between the Buffalo Bills vs Los Angeles Rams should be through the roof, with NBC likely expecting a massive audience for its new broadcasting team.
NFL TV ratings for Hall of Fame Game
Football officially returned on August 4 with Canton, Ohio hosting the 2022 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game between the Las Vegas Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars. On a night when stars quarterback Derek Carr, wide receiver Davante Adams and quarterback Trevor Lawrence were ruled out days before kickoff, the broadcast still performed fairly well.
According to Sports Media Watch, the broadcast on NBC averaged 5.48 million viewers with a total of 5.7 million when Including streaming services not accounted for by Nielsen. It is the second-least watched Hall of Fame Game in a decade, but there’s a reason for it.
The matchup last year between the Dallas Cowboys vs Pittsburgh Steelers pulled in a much larger audience (seven million viewers) because it featured two of the most popular NFL teams. It’s also worth considering that the 2022 Hall of Fame induction doesn’t include any all-time greats with massive name appeal.
All things considered, the NFL and NBC will still be pleased to open the 2022 season with a broadcast for a preseason game featuring backups and fringe NFL roster candidates averaging 5.8 million viewers. The NFL TV ratings should climb nicely during the regular season.
NFL generates massive revenue through TV ratings
The NFL signed TV rights contracts worth more than $100 billion before the 2021 season and everyone is quickly cashing in. We saw NFL TV ratings in 2021 climb, with the league’s broadcasting partners and advertisers very happy with the returns. It’s just part of the reason the NFL generated record-setting national revenue this past year.
NFL TV ratings also have an impact on other things related to league operations. The Denver Broncos sold for a record $4.65 billion this year, in large part because billionaires recognize this is the most popular sport in America and it’s a business that keeps generating record-setting profits each year.
Players will also benefit from this. NFL teams anticipate the salary cap seeing nearly $20 million per season in the years ahead. Of course, that money will be passed on to those competing on the field and that’s why you see contracts for the highest paid NFL players skyrocketing.
NFL TV ratings take hit with 2022 draft
While NFL TV ratings increased during the 2021 season, the league didn’t see that upward trajectory continue with the 2022 NFL Draft. Held in Las Vegas and viewed as a great event for those in attendance, it wasn’t nearly as big of a hit for everyone at home.
Round 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft averaged 10.03 million viewers with a 5.6 rating. In comparison, the 2021 NFL Draft averaged 12.5 million viewers and the virtual 2020 NFL Draft averaged 15.3 million viewers. Things didn’t get much better the next day.
According to Sports Media Watch, viewership for Day 2 of the NFL Draft sat at 5.03 million with a 3.0 rating. It marked the smallest audience for Rounds 2-3 since the 2018 NFL Draft (4.79 million). If the league is looking for positives, Day 3 on Saturday averaged 2.78 million viewers and that is an improvement over previous years.
Why did NFL TV ratings fall for the 2022 NFL Draft?
There really isn’t any reason for the league or its television partners to be concerned about the drop in viewership. For the first time in several years, the NFL had to compete against the NBA playoffs and that took away a sizable section of the potential sports audience.
An even bigger issue was the 2022 draft class itself. Kenny Pickett was the only quarterback drafted in Round 1 and some viewed him as a reach with the 20th pick. Even at the top of the NFL Draft, No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker wasn’t a star and No. 2 selection Aidan Hutchinson was never viewed as a generational talent.
One additional factor at play, eight NFL teams didn’t have a first-round pick and that likely pushed some fan bases away to other things. Expect things to improve for the 2023 NFL Draft.
Super Bowl LVI draws 112 million viewers
The NFL released its numbers for Super Bowl LVI between the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams. In doing so, the league announced that it was the second most-watched Super Bowl in league history with 112.3 million viewers tuning in throughout the NBC broadcast and on streaming services.
101.1 million television viewers tuned in on NBC and Telemundo. Meanwhile, the game drew a record streaming audience of 11.2 million through Peacock and other streaming services.
It’s important to put these numbers into perspective. The past 11 World Series games drew a combined 105 million viewers. The past 12 NBA Finals games have seen a total of 106 million viewers tune in on television and through streaming services. Yeah, the NFL still tops the sports world in terms of popularity. It’s not close.
How many people watched the NFL Pro Bowl?
The NFL is trying things every year to try and make the Pro Bowl a little more exciting and competitive. Once again, any changes made didn’t deliver. On the penultimate NFL Sunday of the 2021 season, the Pro Bowl delivered its worst ratings in 16 years.
The 2022 NFL Pro Bowl averaged 6.69 million viewers across ABC, ESPN and DisneyXD. It’s the lowest average viewership for the game since 2006, when ESPN pulled in 5.96 million viewers. In comparison to the 2019 Pro Bowl, viewership dropped 17% (8.05 million).
Competing against the Winter Olympics certainly didn’t help. But it’s evident fans just aren’t interested in watching an exhibition game with players understandably giving zero effort. More changes will come, but it’s unlikely any of it makes a difference.
NFL TV ratings: AFC, NFC Championship Games draw huge audiences
Even on a Championship Sunday without Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and even the Dallas Cowboys, the NFL TV ratings from the conference championship matchups exploded. Combined, the two games averaged 49.6 million viewers across TV and digital streaming, according to an NFL announcement. It’s the second-most watched Championship Sunday since 2015 and both broadcasts are the most-watched programs since Super Bowl LV.
The entire NFL Playoffs have been a huge draw, averaging 36.3 million viewers. It’s the second-largest audience for the National Football League since 2015.
NFL playoff ratings: Divisional Round games average 37.1 million viewers
As if a memorable weekend of playoff football couldn’t get any better for the NFL, it did following the release of TV ratings. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the NFL’s four divisional round matchups averaged 37.1 million viewers.
- Buffalo Bills vs Kansas City Chiefs: 42.7 million viewers
- Los Angeles Rams vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 38.1 million viewers
- San Francisco 49ers vs Green Bay Packers: 37.1 million viewers
- Cincinnati Bengals vs Tennessee Titans: 30.8 million viewers
As Pro Football Talk notes, those numbers are all steep improvements from the 2021 NFL playoffs. The Saturday night game increased 41% from last year, the Sunday night game rose 20% and the Saturday afternoon game increased 16%.
With Patrick Mahomes headed to the AFC Championship Game and a Rams vs 49ers matchup in the NFC title bout, ratings will likely be through the roof.
NFL TV ratings: Wild Card Weekend offers ratings bonanza for the league
The numbers were eye-opening during the opening week of playoff football as the NFL went with its first three-day weekend of Wild Card action.
That included the San Francisco 49ers’ thrilling road win over the Dallas Cowboys being the most-watched NFL Wild Card Game since 2015. The game did 41.5 million viewers across CBS and Nickelodeon. Said game peaked at 50.23 million viewers toward the end.
Overlall Wild Card Weekend was an absolute win for the NFL from a ratings perspective.
The six games averaged 30.5 million viewers, an increase of 21% from the 2020-21 NFL Wild Card Weekend and the most-watched first weekend of postseason football since 2015-16.
Week 16 NFL TV ratings
- Thursday Night Football, NFL Network – San Francisco 49ers vs. Tennessee Titans, 7.9 mllion
- Christmas Day game, FOX – Cleveland Browns vs. Green Bay Packers, 28.59 million
- Christmas Day, NFL Network – Indianapolis Colts vs. Tennessee Titans, 12.62 million
- Sunday Night Football, NBC – Washington Football Team vs. Dallas Cowboys, 17.28 million
- Monday Night Football, ESPN – Miami Dolhpins vs. New Orleans Saints, 12.31 million
- CBS afternoon game – Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 24.16 million
- FOX, early game Los Angeles Rams vs. Minnesota Vikings/New York Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles, 16.53 million
Christmas Day pulls in monster viewership for NFL
Christmas Day delivered a special treat for the NFL and its broadcasting partners. An evening broadcast of the Cleveland Browns vs. Green Bay Packers clash at Lambeau Field averaged 28.59 million viewers. For comparison, $20.1 million watched the Minnesota Vikings vs. New Orleans Saints game in the same time slot last Christmas.
A late matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and Arizona Cardinals also did well. Exclusively broadcasted on NFLF Network and its streaming services, the Colts-Cardinals broadcast averaged 12.62 million viewers. It is the second-most-watched NFL Network broadcast since Christmas Day 2016.
NFL TV ratings: Week 15 pulls in more strong numbers, despite postponements
While the COVID-19 pandemic forced many postponed games in 2020 and cost the NFL billions in revenue, outbreaks across the league aren’t having the same impact in 2021. While three games were postponed to later dates in the Week 15 schedule, the NFL still finished with strong ratings.
- Thursday Night Football: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 17.86 million
- Sunday Night Football: New Orleans Saints vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 18.06 million
- Monday Night Football: Minnesota Vikings vs. Chicago Bears, 15.84 million
- FOX Game of the Week: Green Bay Packers vs. Baltimore Ravens, 22.01 million
- CBS early game: Tennessee Titans vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 12.92 million
- Saturday Night Football: New England Patriots vs. Indianapolis Colts, 7.26 million (NFL Network)
NFL television ratings for Week 14
- Thursday Night Football: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Minnesota Vikings, 14.04 million
- Sunday Night Football: Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers, 18.56 million
- Monday Night Football: San Francisco 49ers vs. Arizona Cardinals, 15.9 million
- FOX Game of the Week: Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Football Team, 15.7 million
- CBS early game: Las Vegas Raiders vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 12.16 million
NFL Week 13 TV ratings
- Thursday Night Football: Dallas Cowboys vs. New Orleans Saints, 16.69 million
- Sunday Night Football: Denver Broncos vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 17.51 million
- Monday Night Football: New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills, 14.91 million
- FOX Game of the Week: 13.82 million
- CBS early game: Los Angeles Chargers vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 12.75 million
Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints pulls in nearly 17 million viewers
Both the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints had a week to prepare for their Week 13 Thursday Night Football clash. While the game missed some star power, given New Orleans played without Alvin Kamara, it was still one of the most-watched TNF games in 2021.
The NFL announced its TNF broadcast averaged 16.8 million viewers across all platforms, making it the second-highest rated TNF game this season. It strengthens the rising TNF ratings, which are up 12% from last season with an average of 14.9 million viewers.
Week 12 NFL ratings: Thanksgiving brings huge numbers
Unsurprisingly, the best NFL television ratings of the year came with millions of people sitting down on Thanksgiving to watch football. Here are the full viewership numbers for Week 12.
- Thanksgiving FOX early game – Detroit Lions vs. Chicago Bears, 26.75 million
- Thanksgiving CBS game Las Vegas Raiders vs. Dallas Cowboys, 38 million
- Thanksgiving NBC game – Buffalo Bills vs. New Orleans Saints, 24.66 million
- Sunday FOX Game of the Week – Los Angeles Rams vs. Green Bay Packers, 26.75 million
- Sunday Night Football – Cleveland Browns vs. Baltimore Ravens, 16.23 million
- Monday Night Football – Seattle Seahawks vs. Washington Football Team, 10.89 million
- FOX early game: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Indianapolis Colts, 15.07 million
NFL TV rating: CBS draws 38.3 million for Thanksgiving broadcast
A Thanksgiving matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Las Vegas Raiders delivered what will go down as one of the most-watched games in NFL history. CBS estimates it averaged 38.53 million viewers for its Thursday broadcast of the Raiders and Cowboys overtime thriller, the largest audience for a regular-season game since 41.47 million watched the New York Giants vs. San Francisco 49ers.
Week 11 NFL ratings: Dallas Cowboys vs. Kansas City Chiefs had everyone watching
All the eyeballs in Week 11 were on the Patrick Mahomes vs. Dak Prescott showdown at Arrowhead. With fans tuning in expecting to see offensive fireworks, it was mostly a defensive battle with only 28 points being scored. Still, that didn’t affect many appetites, as it was still the most-watched football contest of the week. The historic rivalry between the Packers and Vikings also drew just over 17 million viewers in what was a fight to the finish.
All numbers are pulled from SportsMediaWatch.
- Thursday Night Football: New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons – 13.52 million, 7.7 rating
- FOX Game of the Week: Dallas Cowboys vs. Kansas City Chiefs – 28.06 million, 14.4 rating
- Early FOX game: Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings – 17.28 million, 9.15 rating
- Sunday Night Football: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Los Angeles Chargers – 14.55 million, 8.05 rating
- Monday Night Football: New York Giants vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – TBD
Week 10 NFL ratings: Seattle Seahawks vs. Green Bay Packers draws huge crowd
A Sunday after FOX pulled in more than 20 million viewers for a quarterback battle between Patrick Mahomes and Jordan Love, CBS benefitted in Week 10 with Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson returning for a classic NFC matchup.
While the game itself didn’t live up to the hype, a majority of NFL fans watched the Sunday afternoon game. According to SportsMediaWatch, 22.71 million watched the CBS ‘Game of the Week’ broadcast, which pulled in an 11.95 rating and saw its overall viewership spike.
Here are the remainder of the NFL TV ratings from the nationally-broadcasted games.
- Thursday Night Football: Baltimore Ravens vs. Miami Dolphins – 12.92 million, 7.4 rating
- FOX Game of the Week: Atlanta Falcons vs. Dallas Cowboys – 17.58 million, 9.1 rating
- Early CBS game: Cleveland Browns vs. New England Patriots – 12.36 million, 7.0 rating
- Sunday Night Football: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Las Vegas Raiders – 16.74 million, 9.3 rating
- Monday Night Football: Los Angeles Rams vs. San Francsico 49ers – 12.3 million
Dolphins upset over Baltimore Ravens pulls in big TNF numbers
The Miami Dolphins’ unexpected victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday Night Football averaged 13 million viewers across all platforms, per an NFL announcement. It marked a significant gain from the Week 9 TNF broadcast and delivered the league a 3% bump from the TNF Week 10 game (Indianapolis Colts vs. Tennessee Titans) from the 2020 NFL season.
Week 9 NFL TV ratings
Despite a potential Aaron Rodgers vs. Patrick Mahomes matchup being wiped out by COVID-19, more than 20 million tuned in to watch Jordan Love make his first NFL start. It was an ugly game, but the intrigue and the close score kept an audience around. The FOX broadcast finished with a 12.6 rating, one of its best numbers of the year, and it averaged a whopping 24.37 million viewers.
Here are the full ratings and viewership numbers for the primetime games in Week 9.
- Thursday Night Football: New York Jets vs. Indianapolis Colts – 11.65 million, 6.7
- FOX Game of the Week: Green Bay Packers vs. Kansas City Chiefs – 24.37 million, 12.6
- CBS: Cleveland Browns vs. Cincinnati Bengals/Los Angeles Chargers vs. Philadelphia Eagles – 14.03 million, 7.3
- Sunday Night Football: Tennessee Titans vs. Los Angeles Rams – 14.21 million, 8.1
NFL television ratings for Week 8
Below are the ratings and average audience size for the nationally-broadcasted NFL games in Week 8, via SportsMediaWatch.
- Thursday Night Football: Green Bay Packers vs. Arizona Cardinals – 20.26 million, 11.2
- FOX Game of the Week: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints – 21.29 million, 11.4
- CBS: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns/New England Patriots vs. Los Angeles Chargers – 17.78 million, 9.6
- Sunday Night Football: Dallas Cowboys vs. Minnesota Vikings – 15.68 million, 8.7 rating
- Monday Night Football: New York Giants vs. Kansas City Chiefs – 13.92 millio, 7.7
Dak Prescott-less Cowboys still pull big audience for NBC
While the NFL and NBC would have loved for Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott to play in Week 8, his absence did little damage to the ratings for the latest Sunday Night Football broadcast.
According to Show Buzz Daily, the Week 8 Cowboys-Vikings broadcast averaged 15.68 million viewers. The number is more impressive considering Game 5 of the World Series (13.644 million) likely pull some of the eyes away from the NFL game.
With the World Series ending no later than Wednesday, the NFL can resume being the primary sport on Sunday night and it should draw at least 15-plus million when the Los Angeles Rams face the Tennessee Titans.
Green Bay Packers, Arizona Cardinals drew 20.4 million viewers
A meeting between the 6-1 Green Bay Packers and 7-0 Arizona Cardinals, featuring MVP candidates Aaron Rodgers and Kyler Murray, promised to be a hit on national television. That was reflected in the numbers released Monday.
The NFL announced that the Thursday Night Football game between the Cardinals and Packers averaged 20.4 million viewers. It finished as the third most-watch TNF game ever since NFL partnered with FOX.
It’s the latest example of why TNF isn’t going away anytime soon and proof of why the NFL is putting more focus on streaming. Across all digital platforms, the league set a new non-Super Bowl record for the average minutest audience (AMA) with 1.8 million. The NFL’s steaming partners, Amazon and Twitch, reach a combined 2.9 million total viewers worldwide.
ESPN, Manningcast close out the week with solid Monday Night Football audience
The Manningcast returned after a brief hiatus and the level of fan interest was greater than ever. According to SportsTVRatings, ESPN averaged 11.189 million viewers for its primary Monday night broadcast of the New Orleans Saints vs Seattle Seahawks contest.
The simulcast featuring Peyton and Eli Manning, broadcasted on ESPN2 and ESPN+, averaged 1.606 million viewers. It’s a slight dip from the 1.89 million that ESPN2 pulled in Week 3 (1.89 million), but greater than what ESPN2 would bring in on a normal night.
The ratings from the Week 7 broadcast are down, but that can be attributed to the matchup. Seattle played without Russell Wilson and the Saints’ offense isn’t what it used to be with Drew Brees retired. The Manningcast will be back for NFL Week 8, with the New York Giants facing the Kansas City Chiefs.
Week 7 NFL TV ratings
Here are the NFL television ratings from the Week 7 primetime games, via SportsMediaWatch.
- Sunday Night Football (Colts vs 49ers) – 16.11 million, 9.0 rating (18-45 demo)
- FOX Game of the Week: 15.47 million, 8.2 rating
- CBS early game (Titans vs. Chiefs) – 15.15 million, 8.4 rating
- CBS late game (Bears vs. Buccaneers) – 17.75 million. 9.3 rating
Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos clash draws 13.1 million viewers
On a Thursday night when the Cleveland Brown played without Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, NFL fans still tuned in to watch. It was a low-scoring game, with the Browns defeating the Denver Broncos 17-14, but the TV ratings will leave the NFL and its broadcast partners very pleased.
The NFL announced Friday that across all of its platforms, 13.1 million people tuned in to watch the Broncos-Browns clash. It marks a 26% increase from the 2020 Week 7 Thursday Night Football contest.
It represents a positive trend developing in 2021, with the tri-cast TNF games averaging 14.2 million viewers. With the Arizona Cardinals facing the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night in Week 8, NFL TV ratings will likely be even higher.
Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots thriller pulls in huge numbers on CBS
An afternoon matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots delivered an overtime thriller for the fans and brought in a massive audience for CBS. The network’s national game window averaged 23.223 million viewers throughout the broadcast.
Of course, the back-and-forth in the final minutes helped even more. CBS announced that its airing of the Cowboys-Patriots game peaked at 29.71 million viewers in the final minutes of Sunday’s game. Thanks to the wild finish and the marquee teams playing, it was the most-watched national game on CBS in October since 2015.
Another impressive mark for the network, the Jaguars-Dolphins game in London averaged 6.998 million viewers. As a result, it was the most-watched London game in the last five years.
NFL TV ratings for Week 6: Monday Night Football and Sunday Night Football
The 2021 NFL season continues to pull in excellent numbers, even when the matchups aren’t ideal from a fan-interest perspective. On NBC in Week 6, the SNF broadcast averaged `6.28 million viewers with a 9.0 rating. While it was a dip from the Bills-Chiefs Week 5 game, that is partially due to the absence of Russell Wilson.
On Monday night, ESPN’s broadcast and stream pulled in 12.52 million viewers (SportsMediaWatch). It represented an 11% spike from a Cardinals-Cowboys clash during the same week in 2020, though it was a dip from numbers seen in 2019.
For Week 7, the Manningcast will return to ESPN2 and ESPN+, with Peyton and Eli Manning hosting the simulcast for the New Orleans Saints vs Seattle Seahawks matchup.
Thursday Night Football opens Week 6 with a bang
Future Hall of Famer Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers returned to the primetime stage to open Week 6, facing the Philadelphia Eagles. Unsurprisingly, the Thursday Night Football broadcast pulled in strong ratings once again.
NFL Media announced Friday that 14.5 million viewers tuned in across all platforms to watch the Bucs defeat the Eagles. Broadcasted on NFL Network, FOX, Amazon Prime Video, Twitch, Yahoo Sports and Fox Deportes, NFL ratings spiked 14% from the Week 6 TNF broadcast last year.
Another promising sign, with streaming NFL games becoming more popular, the broadcast drew more than 1.5 million hits via digital platforms. It marks the second-highest for any regular-season NFL game since the league started broadcasting games online.
Week 5 NFL ratings, ESPN lands playoff game
Once again, the National Football League continues to pull in strong numbers for its marquee broadcasts. According to SportsMediaWatch all six featured matchups drew at least 14 million viewers. 14.67 watched Thursday Night Football Week 5 between the Rams and Seahawks, 16.39 million watched CBS broadcast of Dolphins-Buccaneers/Bears-Raiders, the Packers-Bengals game drew 16.45 million viewers, Sunday Night Football averaged 17.52 million viewers in its final numbers and 22 million watched the Giants and Cowboys in FOX’s Game of the Week.
ESPN also announced a partnership with the NFL to broadcast one playoff game each year for the next five seasons. Disney will air a TBD wild-card game on ABC, and ESPN. Furthermore, the ManningCast on ESPN2 and ESPN+ will also simulcast the game.
AFC Championship rematch draws strong numbers for Sunday Night Football
Despite Buffalo and Kansas City not being huge markets, the early numbers for the Week 5 “Sunday Night Football” clash saw an average of 16.78 million viewers with a primetime rating of 4.8 among the 18-49 demo.
It’s a steep fall from the historic pull generated by Tom Brady’s return to Gillette Stadium, but NBC and the NFL continue to dominate whenever games are broadcasted. These are also the early numbers from non-adjusted affiliates, so the ratings will change when everything is finalized.
NFL television ratings climbing through first quarter of 2021 season
After seeing its viewership drop during the 2020 season, the National Football League is faring much better this fall. Since the regular season began, ratings and viewership are skyrocketing across all major networks entering Week 5.
NFL Media announced that its nationally-broadcasted games are averaging 17.3 million viewers per game (TV and digital), a 17% increase from the 2020 season. Better yet, the 21 most-watched shows on TV since September 9 have all been NFL games.
Week 4 proved to be especially strong for the league. 22.3 million tuned in on CBS to watch the Green Bay Packers battle the Pittsburgh Steelers. A few hours later, Tom Brady’s return to Gillette Stadium pulled in 26.7 million viewers for NBC. Week 4 concluded with ESPN’s Monday Night Football broadcast, which averaged 12.6 million (Sports Media Watch) to watch the Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers. It was the most-watched Week 4 MNF game since 2018.
NBC draws huge NFL TV ratings for Buccaneers-Patriots tilt
It was the most-anticipated game of the young NFL season with Tom Brady bringing his Tampa Bay Buccaneers into Gillette to take on his former New England Patriots squad. So many storylines. So much interest.
In what can’t be considered too much of a surprise, this led to historical ratings for NBC’s broadcast of the Week 4 “Sunday Night Football” tilt. According to Deadline, Tampa Bay’s narrow win drew 28.5 million viewers, making it the second most-watched Sunday Night Football” game ever. The most-watched Sunday prime-time game was when the Washington Football Team and Dallas Cowboys battled for the NFC East title in Week 17 of the 2012 campaign. That game drew 30.3 million viewers.
NFL Network pulls in huge numbers for Cincinnati Bengals – Jacksonville Jaguars
because the NFL is required to broadcast all 32 teams at least once on national television, it often uses Thursday Night Football as an avenue for clubs with a smaller fan base. While that was the case in Week 4 when the Cincinnati Bengals face the Jacksonville Jaguars, it still pulled in huge numbers.
NFL Media announced on Monday that 8.5 million viewers watched quarterback Joe Burrow lead Cincinnati to a dramatic comeback over the Jaguars. The audience sized topped the earlier marks from Week 2 and Week 3, giving NFL Network’s exclusive broadcast its most-watched TNF game since 2018.
ESPN pulls in ratings bonanza for Eagles-Cowboys Monday night contest
In what seems to be an early-season theme around the league, NFL TV ratings continue to climb from previous years.
The Dallas Cowboys’ blowout Week 3 win over the division-rival Philadelphia Eagles in Week 3 drew 14.9 million viewers on ESPN. This represents the most-watched Week 3 “Monday Night Football” Game since all the way back in 2012. It’s also a 40% increase from back in 2019 (Bears-Washington Football Team).
“Additionally, the Eagles-Cowboys viewership continued a viewership trend, as ESPN also notched its most-watched Week 1 game since 2013 and its second most-watched Week 2 game since 2014 to go along with the aforementioned most-watched Week 3 game since 2012,” the Futon Critic noted.
Overall, “Monday Night Football” ratings for ESPN are up double digits from each of the past two seasons. Monday’s Cowboys-Eagles matchup was also the most-watched telecast on TV among all key demos.
NBC draws 20-plus million for Green Bay Packers vs San Francisco 49ers
The Week 3 Sunday Night Football clash between the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers will go down as one of the best NFL games in 2021. Unsurprisingly, it created ratings gold for NBC and the NFL once again.
NBC announced its Sunday Night Football Week 3 broadcast averaged 21.1 million viewers across NBC TV, Peacock, and the NBC and NFL digital platforms. It marks a 14% increase from the total viewership from last year’s Week 3 game.
Best of all for the network, it was the most-watched Week 3 game since 2015 and marked the third consecutive week NBC drew 20-plus million viewers on Sunday night.
Looking ahead to Week 4, the first battle pitting Tom Brady against Bill Belichick could set an NFL TV ratings record in viewership for a regular-season game.
Carolina Panthers, Houston Texans draw strong numbers to NFL Network
As NFL Network continues to exclusively stream Thursday Night Football to open the 2021 season, the Week 2 matchup between the Houston Texans and Carolina Panthers delivered in a big way.
NFL Media reported that its Thursday night broadcast averaged 7.9 million viewers, just passing last week’s New York Giants vs Washington Football Team game (7.33 million). It also easily surpassed the Week 3 TNF matchup from 2020, eclipsing it with a 35% spike.
Unsurprisingly, it was the most-watched program on television Thursday night. A year after the NFL saw its ratings drip, the league is roaring back with huge numbers a year before its new media rights contracts even kick in.
Monday Night Football delivers in Week 2, Manningcast ratings spike
The introduction of the Peyton Manning and Eli Manning broadcast team is already paying off for Disney. A week after the Manningcast on ESPN2 averaged 800,000 viewers, the increasing awareness of the broadcast led to to a huge spike in Week 2.
ESPN’s standard Monday Night Football broadcast drew more than 12 million viewers. When combined with the overall age from the Manningcacst (1.9 million viewers) and ESPN Deportes resulted in an overall average of 13.81 million between ESPN’s three networks.
With the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles set to face off on on Monday night in Week 3, expect the ratings to be even higher.
Kansas City Chiefs vs Baltimore Ravens Sunday Night Football classic crushes Emmy Awards
On a night when the NFL competed against the 2021 Emmy Awards, which ended a seven-year ratings slide, NBC’s Sunday Night Football came out on top for the television audience.
The Nielsen ratings from Sunday night, per Variety.com, revealed that the Week 2 clash between the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs averaged 16.1 million viewers and received a 4.8 demo rating. By comparison, the Emmys drew 7.4 million viewers to CBS.
It’s another win for the NFL, which continues to see its TV ratings steadily climb this season. The Chiefs-Ravens game drew a 10% spike in viewership compared to the preliminary numbers for the SNF debut. With the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers set to face off on NBC in Week 3, it’s safe to project the audience size will be strong.
Thursday Night Football ratings explode in 2021 return
The 2021 debut of Thursday Night Football, a matchup between the New York Giants and Washington Football Team, likely delivered even better ratings than NFL Network hoped for in Week 2.
According to SportsMediaWatch, the Thursday Night Football opener averaged an estimated 7.33 million viewers on the NFL’s exclusive TV network. It was the largest season-opening audience for TNF since 2017, when 8.08 million people watched the Houston Texans and Cincinnati Bengals.
For comparison, the 2020 TNF opener between the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals averaged 6.68 million viewers. Of the three exclusive TNF broadcasts on NFL Network last season, only one exceeded 6 million viewers.
Monday Night Football ratings for Week 1 at eight-year high
The Las Vegas Raiders’ stunning and drama-filled win over the Baltimore Ravens represented the most-watched Week 1 Monday Night Football Game since all the way back in 2013. In total, 15.29 million viewers tuned in. Meanwhile, 800,000 watched the “ManningCast” on ESPN2 with brothers Eli and Peyton.
A lot of this could have had to do with the game itself. Baltimore opened up a 14-0 lead in the first half before the Raiders came storming back. It was their first regular-season game in Vegas with fans in attendance. The game also came to a culmination on this touchdown pass from Raiders quarterback Derek Carr in overtime.
NFL releases Week 1 ratings information
Here’s a breakdown of the numbers from the league itself.
- 100 million viewers tuned in during the three-day opening slate.
- The Week 1 average was 17.4 million viewers, up 7% from a season ago.
- 232 billion total minutes consumed. The largest Week 1 total since 2016.
- NBC averaged 22.8 million viewers for its two games, an increase of 11% from last season.
Sunday Night Football ratings for Week 1
After NBC cashed in with a massive audience for the NFL Kickoff Game, its numbers dipped on Sunday Night Football. The Week 1 primetime clash between the Rams and Bears averaged 17.6 million viewers and finished with a 9.6 rating.
It’s a notable drop from the numbers last season. In 2020, the SNF opener between the Cowboys and Rams averaged 18.94 million viewers with a 10.4 rating. Also of note, just seven of NBC’s Sunday night broadcasts averaged 17-plus million viewers last season.
Cord-cutting might play one factor in the declining ratings across television. Cord-cutting has resulted in an estimated 12.82 million cable subscriptions since 2019, per MoffettNathanson, and it’s estimated 27 million households have cut since 2014.
Moving forward, the NFL may attempt to feature teams like the Cowboys, New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers to aid ratings for the SNF opener.
Tampa Bay-Dallas NFL Kickoff Game TV ratings best in a half-decade
Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand reported that the Dallas-Tampa Bay 15.9 overnight rating was up 16% from 2020’s opener between the Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs. It was also a five-year high in overnights.
Ourand noted that the rating figure doesn’t include out-of-home viewing. In other words, it was a raging success. That’s what happens when you pit the GOAT QB in Brady against the NFL’s highest-paid player in 2021 in Prescott, who also happens to play for the most valuable sports franchise.
NFL continues to get good news to start the preseason
NFL Network’s broadcast of the Washington Football Team and New England Patriots game on Aug. 12 drew the highest TV ratings for a preseason game on the flagship station since all the way back in 2018. The matchup saw 1.75 million viewers tune in.
This is especially significant in that the preseason game went up directly against MLB’s Field of Dream Game between the New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox, which also drew historical ratings from a television perspective.
Pro Football Hall of Fame Game was NFL ratings bonanza
A total of 7.31 million viewers tuned in to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ win over the Dallas Cowboys earlier in August, marking the highest-rated preseason broadcast since all the way back in 2017. There’s good reason for this. The entire 2020 preseason was canceled due to COVID-19 and fans were desperate for some football action.
To put this into perspective, the 2021 NBA Finals between the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns drew an average of 9.91 million viewers (more on that later). This just goes to show us that the NFL is still America’s pastime.
2021 NFL Draft was the third-most watched ever
There wasn’t a ton of drama atop the 2021 draft with the Jacksonville Jaguars eyeing Trevor Lawrence at one and the New York Jets linked to BYU’s Zach Wilson with the second selection. However, intrigue when it came to the San Francisco 49ers trading up to No. 3 led to continued uptick in viewership with the annual event seeing its third-highest ratings ever.
“Per a league press release, the 2021 NFL Draft was seen by an average audience of 6.1 million viewers (TV and digital) across NFL Network, ABC, ESPN, ESPN Deportes and digital channels during the three-day event, making it the third most-watched draft ever,” NFL Media noted. “The three most-watched drafts in NFL history have occurred in the last three years: 2019 (6.2 million), 2020 (8.3 million), 2021 (6.1 million).”
Continued interest in the NFL Draft is a great thing for the league. It started out as nothing more than a niche event for the most hardcore of fans. Now, it’s a three-day event that shows just how popular the NFL is compared to the other three major North American professional sports leagues. Don’t expect this to change in 2022 with the draft heading to Las Vegas.
Super Bowl LV in review: TV ratings
Perhaps, fans were not excited to see Tom Brady play in his 10th Super Bowl. There’s a good chance that the lack of parties due to the COVID-19 pandemic played a role, too. Either way, Super Bowl LV between the eventual champion Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs represented the worst ratings for the big game since all the way back in 1969.
According to Sports Media Watch, the game drew the lowest ratings for a championship bout in the league since Super Bowl III between the then-Baltimore Colts and New York Jets.
“It was just the seventh Super Bowl with less than a 40 rating, and the first since 1990 (49ers-Broncos: 39.0) — snapping a 30-year streak.”
That specific Super Bowl matchup saw Joe Montana and the 49ers defeat John Elway’s Denver Broncos by the score of 55-10, the biggest blowout in the history of the big game.
NFL TV ratings were a mixed back throughout the 2020 season. The pandemic coupled with an election year and political divisiveness around the United States played a major role in this. With the league struggling revenue-wise due to COVID-19, seeing one of the lowest-rated Super Bowls in NFL history can’t be seen as a great thing.
NFL ratings decline had networks scrambling in 2020
This site has focused on the up-and-down NFL TV ratings for the 2020 season. Not much of that had to to with networks and their relationships with sponsors as a decline became obvious around around the football world. Whether it’s the ongoing pandemic or something else, said decline forced networks to scramble and strengthen relationships with sponsors.
“TV networks are feeling the strains of disappointing NFL ratings, as they are forced to restructure deals with advertisers to make up for the smaller audience, and their opportunity to make money off remaining games during the lucrative holiday season narrows,” the Wall Street Journal reported this past weekend.
Those close to this situation called it “unheard of.” Some of the broadcast networks, such as CBS and Fox, even considered having advertisers pay less than what they had originally pledged to air ads during NFL games.
2020 in review: Monday Night Football ratings
Before the 2020 NFL season began, ESPN worked desperately to lure in a broadcasting crew that would entertain fans and increase viewership. After missing out on Tony Romo, Peyton Manning and even Sean McVay, ESPN settled on its backup plan.
Unfortunately for the network, in a year that saw the company lay off 300-plus employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic, NFL ratings took a major hit. Monday Night Football was already the lesser football package for NFL games and the decline in viewership didn’t help in 2020.
- Monday Night Football, Week 12: 11.38 million viewers and 3.4 rating, per SportsMediaWatch, tuned in for Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles game.
- MNF, Week 11: 12.61 million viewers and 3.6 rating (18-49) for Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers battle.
- MNF, Week 10: 11.45 million viewers, 3.2 rating for Monday night’s NFC North battle between Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears.
- MNF, Week 9: 10.22 million viewers and 2.8 rating for the New England Patriots and New York Jets matchup.
- MNF, Week 8: 11.7 million viewers, 3.5 rating (18-49 demographic) for ESPN’s Buccaneers and New York Giants broadcast.
- MNF, Week 7: 10.91 million viewers, another dip for MNF, for Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Rams game.
- MNF, Week 6: 11.32 million viewers watched the Arizona Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys on ESPN.
- MNF, Week 5: 10.69 million tuned in for the Los Angeles Chargers and New Orleans Saints clash.
- MNF, Week 4: 8.65 million people watched the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons, the lowest-rated MNF game of the NFL season.
- MNF, Week 3: 14.7 million viewers witnessed the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens square off, a huge boom for ESPN.
- MNF, Week 2: 15.59 million watched the New Orleans Saints and las Vegas Raiders, the most-watched MNF game this season. The NFL’s first nationally-televised game with a Las Vegas team was gold for ratings.
- MNF, Week 1: ESPN’s MNF double-header, featuring the Steelers-Giants and Titans-Broncos game showed the first signs of NFL ratings taking a hit.
In comparison: 2021 NBA Finals and NFL TV ratings
The NBA and its players were the most active in calling for systemic change in the United States and supporting the Black Lives Matter message last year. This created somewhat of a split between those on either side of the political line.
What we do know is that the 2021 NBA Finals between the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks and upstart Phoenix Suns did not draw great ratings.
- Game 1: 8.56 million
- Game 2: 9.38 million
- Game 3: 9.02 million
- Game 4: 10.25 million
- Game 5: 9.55 million
- Game 6: 12.52 million
This comes after the Los Angeles Lakers’ 2020 NBA Finals win over the Miami Heat drew a record low average of 7.45 million viewers in the Orlando Bubble.
In comparing to the NFL, there’s really no competition here.
- Super Bowl LV (Chiefs-Buccaneers): 91.63 million
- NFC Championship Game (Buccaneers-Packers): 44.77 million
- AFC Championship Game (Bills-Chiefs): 41.85 million
- NFC Playoffs (Buccaneers-Saints): 35.46 million
- NFC Playoffs (Rams-Packers): 26.5 million
- AFC Playoffs (Browns-Chiefs): 34.33 million
- AFC Playoffs (Ravens-Bills): 26.34 million
This article was originally published on Sportsnaut.com and is republished here with permission.