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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.

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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.”

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