Just two weeks to go before the end of the regular season, the NFL continues to see 10% lower TV viewership on average for nationally televised games versus a year ago. We can blame the COVID-19 pandemic.
Games averaged 15.1 million viewers through 15 weeks (December 21), when looking at Nielsen’s live program-plus same-day time-shifted viewing. It averaged 16.7 million over the same time period a year ago.
There were 15 games posting 20 million more viewers this year-to-date -- versus 26 games with 20 million or more a year ago over the same time period.
One of the biggest losers is NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” down a steep 17% to 16.4 million.
NBC, and many other networks, have seen major postponements and rescheduling of games throughout the season -- due to players testing positive for COVID-19, which affects viewing data. Analysts also point to lower ratings due to the lack of live fan excitement in stadiums during games.
One highly touted Thanksgiving day game on NBC -- Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh -- was eventually played on a Wednesday afternoon after its intended Thanksgiving scheduling. It pulled in a low 10.7 million viewers.
Three other major franchises -- Sunday afternoon games on Fox and CBS and ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” -- have done somewhat better. Fox’s major late-afternoon national game is down 6% to 18.9 million viewers, while CBS’ national game is 2% lower to 18.5 million and ESPN has slipped 3% to 11.6 million.
“Thursday Night Football” games airing on both Fox and NFL Network are down 11% to 13.1 million viewers.
Another TV measurement company, iSpot.tv, says that from September 1 through December 22, total NFL football programming pulled in 119 billion TV ad impressions -- down from 151.3 billion impressions in 2019.