NFL Season-To-Date Viewing Rises 5%

With two weeks left of the 2021 NFL season, the league has returned to decent TV ratings growth this year -- 5% higher -- to average 15.9 million Nielsen-measured viewers per game.

All major TV network franchises witnessed higher results. All of Fox’s Sunday afternoon games are up 7% to average 17.3 million viewers. NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” rose 3% to 17.7 million viewers.

CBS Sunday afternoon games grew 2% to 16.8 million. Plus, the network broadcast a massive Thanksgiving Day game, featuring the Dallas Cowboys vs. Las Vegas Raiders, earning 37.9 million viewers -- the biggest audience for the regular season NFL game since 1993.

Fox’s Thanksgiving game on the same day took in 26.7 million viewers. Later that night, NBC earned 19.4 million viewers for its holiday game.

Fox/NFL Network’s “Thursday Night Football” was up 9% to 14.9 million viewers. ESPN has gained 17% in viewing versus a year ago to 13.3 million viewers. Some of this rise includes adding simulcast viewer gains from airings on ABC and ESPN2.



A year ago for the 2020 NFL season, through 16 weeks, the league averaged 15.2 million viewers -- which was down 8% from the same time period in 2019.

The 2020 NFL regular season was dinged by pandemic disruptions. That said, the NFL fared better than other sports TV programming. The NBA, for example, witnessed a 30% drop in regular season TV viewing due, in part, to its season being rescheduled to an August through October period.

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