• Loading stock data...
Thursday, June 13, 2024

ESPN Draws NFL’s Biggest TV Audience Of The Year

  • ESPN pulls over 29 million viewers for Chiefs vs. Eagles.
  • Most-watched 'Monday Night Football' game in 27 years.
Jalen Hurts
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

When the NFL released its 2023 regular season schedule in May, ESPN executives did handstands when they scored the Super Bowl rematch between the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles. 

Now we know why.

With over 29 million viewers, ESPN’s coverage of the Eagles 21-17 win over the Chiefs delivered the NFL’s largest TV audience of the season across all networks. 

It was also “Monday Night Football’s” most-watched game in 27 years, the most-watched NFL regular season game since last Thanksgiving and most-watched TV show of any kind since Fox Sports’ broadcast of Super Bowl 57 drew 115.1 million viewers on Feb. 12.

The game averaged 29,021,000 viewers across Walt Disney Co. platforms ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes as well as the ESPN+ and NFL+ streaming platforms. The telecast peaked at 31.2 million viewers.

That topped the previous season-high of 27.5 million viewers for NBC Sports’ telecast of the Chiefs’ season-opening game loss to the Detroit Lions. 

It set a new record as the most-watched “Monday Night Football” game since ESPN took over the iconic prime-time package from the old ABC Sports in 2006.  That’s a span of over 450 games.

ESPN2’s “ManningCast” with Peyton and Eli Manning contributed 1.9 million viewers, the alt-cast’s best number in two years. The new cast of “Monday Night Countdown” drew 1.8 million viewers — its biggest audience this season.

The game also blew past ESPN’s previous MNF record of 22.67 million viewers for the New York Jets vs. Buffalo Bills in Week 1.

It marked the largest audience for an MNF telecast since ABC drew 31.5 million viewers for the Dallas Cowboys vs. Green Bay Packers in 1996.

Several factors contributed to ESPN’s record-setting night.

First, the Super Bowl 57 rematch was arguably the season’s best matchup on paper, featuring the AFC and NFC’s respective No. 1 seeds.

Second, ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro has labored for years to repair the network’s formerly frayed relationship with the NFL. The payoff came with a stronger game schedule in the past two seasons. The NFL also awarded ESPN its first two Super Bowls after the 2026 and 2030 seasons.

Nobody will confuse Monday’s regular-season matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles with a title game. But it provides a roadmap of how ESPN and Disney will approach their first Super Bowls after the 2026 and 2030 seasons.

ESPN Treating ‘Monday Night Football’ Like a Super Bowl Dress Rehearsal

“Monday Night Football” will be roadmap of ESPN’s first two Super Bowls.
November 20, 2023

Third, ESPN and Disney covered the game like a mini-Super Bowl. There was flood the zone non-stop coverage and cross-promotion across all Disney properties, ranging from ESPN’s “Get Up” and “First Take” to ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

And fourth, the matchup lived up to the hype. TV viewers love a close game. They stayed to the end as Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes nearly pulled off another on-field miracle. 

As ESPN programmer Julie Sobieski told Front Office Sports before the game: “We have had this game circled since the schedule release in May.”

Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

May 10, 2024; Lake Forest, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Caleb Williams during a press conference before Chicago Bears rookie minicamp at Halas Hall.

Caleb Williams Launches Investment Firm Before Signing a Bears Contract

Williams announced 888 Midas for private equity, VC, and real estate deals.

Sage Steele Claims in Suit That Her Agents Prioritized Relationship With ESPN Over Her

She says CAA chose its relationship over ESPN over advocating for her.

Paramount-Skydance Merger Off: Could Deal With WBD Be Revived?

Shari Redstone abruptly calls off potential merger discussions between the CBS Sports parent and Skydance Media.

ESPN Extension Could Set Up Shannon Sharpe As Stephen A. Smith’s Successor

Sharpe is writing one of the great career comebacks in sports TV history.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

Stanley Cup Final a Clash of Vastly Different Markets


Featured Today

Jan 3, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; General view of the NFL shield logo signage before the Pittsburgh Steelers host the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field.

Odds Stacked Against NFL in Multibillion-Dollar Sunday Ticket Trial

Why the class action trial does not look promising for the league.
Jan 7, 2024; San Francisco, California, USA; Toronto Raptors forward Jontay Porter (11) takes a three-point shot against the Golden State Warriors during the second half at Chase Center.
June 9, 2024

‘Bound to Happen’: The Age of the Sports Betting Scandal Has Arrived

A banishment, betting scheme, and guilty plea all in one scandal-filled span.
June 8, 2024

‘Experimental in Nature’: The Rapid, Confounding Rise of Streaming Bundles

Here’s why confusion continues to outweigh solutions in the streaming package boom.
June 2, 2024

The Nostalgia Market: Michael Jordan’s Memorabilia Remains Coveted, With Caveats

Due to scarcity, and sometimes, items’ undisclosed whereabouts, this world has limitations.

USA Cricket Is on the Cusp of a Historic Win. But Who Can Watch?

On Wednesday, the U.S. will face the pre-tournament favorite, India.
June 10, 2024

What Would TNT Sports Look Like Without the NBA? Here’s What We Know

Warner Bros. Discovery still has plenty of other sports rights.
June 11, 2024

After Long-Term French Open Deal, What’s Next for TNT Sports?

A 10-year rights deal for the French Open immediately becomes the longest in Warner Bros. Discovery’s portfolio.

How HOKA is Reimagining the NIL Relationship

HOKA, the renowned athletic footwear and apparel brand, is betting on a new reality with NIL.
June 6, 2024

NBA Media-Rights Talks: Silver Says Deals Are Near, Wants to ‘Wrap It Up’

The commissioner highlights the ‘complexity’ of the high-profile media-rights negotiations.
Oct 22, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; ESPN broadcasters Doris Burke (left) and Ryan Ruocco during the NBA game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center.
June 6, 2024

Doris Burke Set to Make TV History With NBA Finals Call

The first woman to call a major U.S. men’s championship on TV.
June 6, 2024

CFP and NFL Will Play on the Same Day: Breaking Down the TV Schedule

The CFP has announced its broadcast schedule for the expanded, 12-team postseason.
Showboats’ T.J. Green (14) wags his finger after making a stop during the UFL game between the San Antonio Brahmas and Memphis Showboats in Simmons Liberty Bank Stadium in Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium in Memphis, Tenn., on Saturday, April 6, 2024.
June 6, 2024

UFL Ratings Top XFL and USFL From 2023 in First Season of Merger

Viewership increased roughly 200,000 more than either league had in 2023.