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NFL regular-season ratings increase 10% over last season

Jan
14
1/14/2022 12:27:24 PM
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An extra week of games, close finishes and a non-election year helped propel the NFL to its highest regular-season ratings in six years, The Associated Press reports.

The 272 regular-season games averaged 17.1 million viewers across television and digital platforms, that is a 10% increase over 2020 and is the league's highest average since 2015.

"There's a strong argument to be made that the National Football League is the single most important entity in popular culture. And the numbers of viewers watching the NFL bears that out," said Marc Ganis, co-founder of Chicago-based consulting group Sportscorp.

It was expected that the audience would increase after the 2020 season was played in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, with empty stadiums presenting a strange viewing dynamic, and many people's viewing habits changing. The first half of that season also occurred in the midst of a presidential campaign, when many were watching cable news channels.

"Ratings and viewership from year to year are never a straight line. There's always some ins and outs," said Hans Schroeder, NFL executive vice president and chief operating officer, NFL Media. "Certainly 2020 was a unique year in a lot of different ways, but when you think about this season with full stadiums and the game itself, it was an awesome regular season."

Three of the five television packages experienced double-digit growth. ESPN's "Monday Night Football" and the "Thursday Night Football" package 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 when the league played 17 regular-season games. Despite the extra games, there were not many blowouts. According to the league, 64% of all games this season were within one score in the fourth quarter.

NFL games ranked in the top 16 and 91 of the top 100 telecasts on television during the season, according to Nielsen. The Dallas Cowboys were involved in five of the 10 most-viewed games, including the Week 12 Thanksgiving Day match 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 to average at least 40 million.

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