NFL TV ratings, a look forward: The 2022 NFL season is officially over and the television ratings from the top games showed football is as popular as ever.
Below, we look at NFL TV ratings from the 2021 and 2022 seasons with the latest updates on Super Bowl LVII.
Bookmark this page for NFL TV ratings for information on the 2022 season and moving forward.
Related: NFL games today
Here are the 2022 NFL TV ratings from the regular season, playoffs and Super Bowl LVII.
Super Bowl draws 113 million viewers
According to Fox Sports, the 113 million that tuned in to watch the Kansas City Chiefs defeat the Philadelphia Eagles was the most-watched Super Bowl in six years. The broadcast network also notes that it is the third most-watched television broadcast in history.
The all-time record was Super Bowl XLIX with 114.4 million back in January of 2015. The second most-watched was Super Bowl XLVII between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos in February of 2014.
Of the 30 most-watched television broadcasts of all-time in the United States, 29 have been Super Bowls. The only exception was the series finale of M.A.S.H. back in 1983.
NFL Pro Bowl ratings
After hearing complaints about the Pro Bowl for years, the NFL dramatically changed how it holds its version of the All-Star Game. Out went to the traditional game between the AFC vs NFC and in came three flag football games plus individual skills challenges.
While the change itself generated mostly positive feedback from those in attendance, it didn’t seem to help the NFL TV ratings. Broadcasted on ESPN and ABC, the Pro Bowl games averaged 6.28 million viewers for a 6% drop from the ratings for the 2022 Pro Bowl.
- 2022 MLB All-Star Game: 7.51 million avg. viewers
- 2022 NBA All-Star Game: 6.28 avg. million viewers
NFL Playoff television ratings
After a strong finish to the regular season, the presence of marquee teams and legendary quarterbacks in the NFL Playoffs have provided a boost for viewership. In advance of Super Bowl LVII, here are the NFL TV ratings from the postseason. These are the highest NFL TV ratings on Championship Sunday in nine years.
Conference Championship Sunday
- AFC Championship Game, CBS – Bengals vs Chiefs – 53.124 million avg. viewers
- 2022 AFC Championship Game – Bengals vs Chiefs – 47.85 million avg. viewers
- NFC Championship Game – Eagles vs 49ers – 52.3 million avg. viewers
CBS announced that its AFC Championship Game broadcast peaked at 60 million viewers on Sunday, making it the most-watched TV program on any network since Super Bowl LVII. Furthermore, CBS led all networks with an average of 40.798 million viewers during the playoffs.
As for FOX’s NFC Championship Game, the Philadelphia Eagles vs San Francisco 49ers broadcast peaked at 52.3 million viewers and this was the most-watched Conference Championship Game in 2023.
NFL Divisional Round
- NFC Divisional Round, FOX – Cowboys vs 49ers – 45.65 million avg. viewers
- NFC Divisional Round, FOX – Giants vs Eagles – 28.64 million avg. viewers
- AFC Divisional Round, CBS – Bengals vs Bills – 39.32 million avg. viewers
- AFC Divisional Round, NBC – Jaguars vs Chiefs – 32.31 million avg. viewers.
FOX’s Cowboys vs 49ers game was the second-biggest audience ever for a Divisional Round broadcast.
Related: Super Bowl ads cost 2023
Wild Card Weekend
- Wild Card Game, FOX – Giants vs Vikings – 33.21 million avg. viewers
- Wild Card Game, ESPN/ABC – Cowboys vs Buccaneers – 31.2 million avg. viewers
- Wild Card Game, CBS – Dolphins vs Bills – 30.87 million avg. viewers
- Wild Card Game, FOX – Seahawks vs 49ers – 27.46 million avg. viewers
- Wild Card Game, NBC – Ravens vs Bengals – 26.87 million avg. viewers
- Wild Card Game, NBC – Chargers vs Jaguars – 20.6 million avg. viewers
NFL TV ratings 2022
Here are the NFL’s television ratings from the 2022 regular season, focusing on total viewership from Weeks 1-18, along with the average audience size and the most watched games.
- NFL total viewers 2022: 185 million viewers
- Average NFL TV ratings: 16.7 million avg. viewers per game
Most watches TV shows in 2022
The NFL TV ratings during the regular season once again prove that football is the most popular thing on television. According to data obtained by Mike Jurecki, 88 of the top 100 shows on TV in 2022 were NFL games.
Most watched NFL games in 2022
- New York Giants vs Dallas Cowboys, Week 12, FOX – 42.1 million viewers
- Buffalo Bills vs Detroit Lions, Week 12, CBS – 31.9 million viewers
- Dallas Cowboys vs New York Giants, Week 10, FOX – 29.2 million viewers
- Philadelphia Eagles vs Dallas Cowboys, Week 16, FOX – 27.8 million viewers
- Dallas Cowboys vs New York Giants, Week 11, CBS – 27.7 million viewers
It comes as no surprise that the highest NFL TV ratings in 2022 came when the Dallas Cowboys are playing. Whether football fans love them or hate them, the Cowboys generate attention and they will be a focus of nationally-televised games in 2023.
NFL Christmas ratings
The NBA owned Christmas for many years, with many effectively viewing NBA games on Christmas Day as the unofficial start of each basketball season. With Christmas Eve on Saturday and Christmas Day on Sunday in Week 16, the NFL TV ratings proved once again no other American sport touches pro football.
|Philadephia Eagles vs Dallas Cowboys (Dec. 24)||FOX||27.83 million|
|Las Vegas Raiders vs Pittsburgh Steelers||NFL Network||10.94 million|
|Green Bay Packers vs Miami Dolphins (Dec. 25)||FOX||25.9 million|
|Los Angeles Rams vs Denver Broncos||CBS & Nickelodeon||22.57 million|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Arizona Cardinals||NBC||17.1 million|
|Los Angeles Chargers vs Indianapolis Colts||ESPN||10.94 million|
|NBA Christmas Day games (5 games)||ESPN/ABC||4.27 million|
It’s striking but unsurprising that even NFL Network pulled in more than double the best NBA TV ratings for ESPN. Speaking of ESPN, per Sports Media Watch, the Monday Night Football ratings made it the least-watched MNF game in Week 16 since 2018. As for NBC’s Sunday Night Football, it drew its smallest audience in terms of average NFL TV ratings in three years for a Week 16 game.
NFL TV ratings on Thanksgiving
The NFL has owned Thanksgiving for years, becoming part of the tradition for families on Thursday. With an unusually strong slate of games, the NFL TV ratings on Thanksgiving provided even stronger returns than some might have expected.
- FOX, New York Giants vs Dallas Cowboys – 42.1 million viewers, 12.7 rating
- CBS, Buffalo Bills vs Detroit Lions – 31.78 million viewers, 11.8 rating
- 12% viewership spike compared to 2021 game (Bears vs Lions)
- Largest audience for an early Thanksgiving game in NFL history
- NBC, New England Patriots vs Minnesota Vikings – 24.78 million viewers, 9.7 rating
NFL vs World Series ratings
Week 8 and Week 9 of the 2022 NFL season have lined up with the World Series between the Houston Astros vs Philadelphia Phillies. Unsurprisingly, the NFL TV ratings are easily outpacing anything Major League Baseball is generating in terms of viewership.
- Amazon Prime, Thursday Night Football – Ravens vs Buccaneers –
- ESPN, Monday Night Football – Bengals vs Browns, 11.3 million avg. viewers, 6.2 rating
- NBC, Sunday Night Football – Packers vs Bills, 19.62 million, 10.6 rating
- FOX, Sunday afternoon – 49ers vs Rams/Giants vs Seahawks – 24.93 million, 12.6 rating
- Fox, Sunday early game – Bears vs Cowboys – 11.94 million, 6.3 rating
In comparison, many of the World Series games on FOX have struggled to match or top regular-season NFL games.
- FOX, World Series Game 3 – 11.16 million avg. viewers
- FOX, World Series Game 2 – 10.99 million avg. viewers
- FOX, World Series Game 1 – 11.48 million avg. viewers
NFL TV Ratings Week 7 – Thursday Night Football takes a hit
Amazon is paying $1.1 billion per season for the next 10 years to exclusively broadcast Thursday Night Football. After a strong start for the network to open the 2022 NFL season, things are steadily trending down. As reported by Sports Media Watch, the Week 7 TNF clash between the New Orleans Saints vs Arizona Cardinals averaged just 7.82 million viewers for Amazon Prime. It’s the third consecutive week that the NFL TV ratings for TNF have been at a season-low.
Notably, Amazon is still excited about its partnership with the NFL. It was recently announced that in 2023, Amazon Prime will have a game on Black Friday after the three games on Thanksgiving. It’s a brilliant move by Amazon, keeping football fans at home to buy things via Amazon Prime instead of going out to the store.
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 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.
2023 USFL teams, coaches, and star players
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
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
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
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
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.
AFC Championship rematch draws strong numbers for Sunday Night Football
A rematch of the AFC Championship Game between the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs delivered more strong NFL TV ratings for the league and NBC.
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.
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.
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