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NFL sees average viewership grow 10% to 17.1m during regular season

ESPN’s Monday night games up 16%, reaching 14.18m average viewers.

13 January 2022 Rory Jones

Getty Images

  • Manningcast averages 1.6m viewers over nine games
  • NBC (11%), CBS (9%) and Fox (2%) all saw NFL audiences grow
  • NFL streaming up 18% on Peacock, Paramount+ and ESPN+

The National Football League’s (NFL) regular season live broadcasts reached an average national audience of 17.1 million viewers across its US broadcast partners’ linear and digital platforms.

With ratings up ten per cent on the 2020 season, the figures mark the NFL’s highest average broadcast audience in six years, even with the addition of an extra regular season game.

Ratings for ESPN’s Monday night games were up 16 per cent on the 2020 season, with an average of 14.18 million viewers. That marks ESPN’s highest viewership numbers since 2010 and the third highest since 2006, when the Monday night package moved to the Disney-owned broadcaster.

ESPN’s Monday night simulcasts featuring NFL legends Peyton and Eli Manning averaged 1.6 million viewers over nine games, peaking at 1.96 million for week eight’s matchup between the New York Giants and the Kansas City Chiefs. The ‘Manningcast’ is set to return on 17th January, as the Los Angeles Rams host the Arizona Cardinals in the wildcard playoff round.

The rise in viewership was reflected across all of the NFL’s domestic broadcast partners. Thursday night games, which were aired across Fox, the NFL Network and Amazon, saw a 16 per cent viewership increase.

NBC’s Sunday night live broadcasts were up 11 per cent on the 2020 regular season. Averaging 19.3 million viewers, the Comcast-owned media giant’s NFL Sunday night games represented the most popular US broadcast during the primetime window for the 11th consecutive season.

CBS saw a nine per cent increase for its regular season games, posting a 21.59 million average audience across its ten national game windows. Meanwhile Fox, which has the other Sunday afternoon package, saw its audience average grow by two per cent year-over-year to more than 18.5 million during the 2021 regular season. The network said that is its highest NFL broadcast ratings over the last four years.

NFL live streaming figures saw a significant increase, with ratings up 18 per cent on last season across NBC’s Peacock platform, Paramount+ for CBS and ESPN+.

The Dallas Cowboys featured in five of the 2021 regular season’s ten most watched games. This included the Thanksgiving matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders on CBS, which became the most-watched NFL regular season game on any network in 31 years, drawing in 40.8 million viewers. This was only the second regular season game to eclipse the 40 million mark since 1988.

The 2021 NFL regular season saw 370 billion total minutes of content consumed, which is up 18 per cent against 2020 and the second-highest total on record behind only 2015.

“Featuring incredible play on the field and close contests, the 2021 regular season proved to be one of the most exciting and exhilarating of all-time,” said Hans Schroeder, NFL executive vice president and the chief operating officer of NFL Media.

“This year’s schedule, highlighted by an enhanced regular season featuring 17 games, gave our broadcast partners the ability to provide fans with more football and incredible matchups than ever. We look forward to a strong finish with the upcoming postseason and Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles.”

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