NFL regular season rankings up 10% from last season – Boston News, Weather, Sports

An extra week of games, close finishes, and a non-election year propelled the NFL to its highest regular-season ratings in six years.

The 272 regular season games averaged 17.1 million viewers across television and digital platforms, a 10% increase from 2020 and the highest average in the league since 2015.

“There is a strong argument that the National Football League is the single most important entity in popular culture. And the number of viewers watching the NFL confirms that,” said Marc Ganis, co-founder of Chicago-based advisory group Sportscorp.

Audiences were expected to increase after the 2020 season played out in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, with empty stadiums exhibiting strange viewing dynamics and changing many people’s viewing habits. The first half of that season also took place in the midst of a presidential campaign, when many were watching cable news channels.

“Year-to-year ratings and viewership are never a straight line. There are always some ins and outs,” said Hans Schroeder, NFL executive vice president and chief operating officer, NFL Media. “Of course 2020 was a unique year in many ways, but if you think about this season with full stadiums and the game itself, it was a great regular season.”

Three out of five television packages experienced double-digit growth. ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” and “Thursday Night Football” pack on Fox, NFL Network and Amazon Prime were both up 16% from last season, followed by NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” at 11%.

This was also the first season in which the league played 17 regular season games. Despite the extra games, there weren’t many blowouts. According to the league, 64% of all games this season were within one score in the fourth quarter.

According to Nielsen, NFL games were in the top 16 and 91 of the 100 best televised shows during the season. The Dallas Cowboys were involved in five of the top 10 most-watched games, including Week 12’s Thanksgiving Day game with the Las Vegas Raiders, which averaged 40.8 million viewers on CBS. That was the most watched regular season game on any network in 31 years and one of only two since 1988 averaging at least 40 million.

CBS was up 9% from last season, with the average of 18.09 million being the highest since 2015. That includes an average of 21.59 million over the 10 national game windows.

Fox’s Sunday games were up 2%, averaging 18.57 million, but had five of the top 10 most-watched games. The Week 11 game between the Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs led the way with an average of 28.7 million.

The final season of The Fox. NFL Network, Amazon Prime Video “Thursday Night Football” tri-cast average of 16.4 million. Coincidentally, the biggest game in that package was not on Thursday night but on Christmas Day, as the Cleveland Browns-Green Bay Packers game averaged 28.6 million.

“Sunday Night Football” is fast becoming the most-watched show in prime-time for its 11th consecutive season at 19.3 million. Tampa Bay had NBC’s two best games, including Tom Brady’s Week 4 return to New England (27.2 million).

ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” averaged 14.18 million. It’s the best regular season viewership since 2010, and the third best since 2006, when the package moved mostly to cable from ABC. The nine alternate broadcasts 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.

The “ManningsCast” returns for Monday’s wildcard game between the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams.

The biggest encouraging factor for all parties is that the number of streaming services continues to grow steadily. With Peacock, Paramount+ and ESPN+ expanding their offerings, a total of 370 billion minutes were streamed during the regular season, an 18% increase from 2020 and the second-highest total ever, after only 2015.

Those numbers are only going to rise in the coming years, as “Thursday Night Football” heads to Prime Video full-time next season, as well as exclusive streaming games on ESPN+ and Peacock when the new television contract begins in 2023. The competition’s “Sunday Ticket” package with DirecTV expires after next season, with many expecting multiple airlines to bid.

“If you’re 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 watching the games is appointment television. People will find games on whatever platform they are on. That’s what makes it huge valuable to the streamers because one of the things streamers need is primarily a reason for people to go to them.

“The NFL is a built-in appointment television. It’s already where people want to go. And so I expect that streaming numbers will continue to grow by very large percentages every year.”

(Copyright (c) 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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