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NBC Challenges Fox’s Declaration For ‘Most-Watched’ NFL Game

  • Fox claimed the Eagles-Jets was the season’s most-watched game.
  • But NBC previously reported three games with higher viewership.
Jets vs. Eagles
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

NBC Sports is challenging Fox Sports’ assertion it showed the “most-watched” NFL game of the season.

On Tuesday, Fox said it drew 26,085,000 viewers for the New York Jets upset win over the Philadelphia Eagles – making it the most-watched NFL game telecast on any network this season. Fox added that Jets-Eagles was the most-watched TV show on any network since its broadcast of Super Bowl LVII.

But on Wednesday, NBC pointed out it had already reported three games with higher viewership. 

They were the network’s season-opening telecast of Kansas City Chiefs vs. Detroit Lions (27.5 million), Chiefs vs. Jets (26.7 million), and Dallas Cowboys vs. San Francisco 49ers (26.3 million).

According to NBC, the discrepancy boils down to how Nielsen measures NFL audiences on different networks as well as the audience figures supplied by those networks.

Nielsen includes Fox’s streaming numbers. But it does not include NBC’s, which are measured by Adobe Analytics.

NBC uses Total Audience Delivery or TAD. For example, the season-opening Chiefs vs. Lions telecast averaged 24.8 million Nielsen-measured viewers – plus another 2.8 million streaming viewers.

But from Nielsen’s standpoint, said sources, the biggest Nielsen-reported audience for any TV show since Super Bowl LV is Fox’s 26,085,000 viewers for Eagles-Jets.

On Wednesday, NBC posted a tweet reading: “With THREE GAMES with 26+ Million Viewers, NBC’s Sunday Night Football has matched 2015 NBC SNF with the Most Such Mega Audiences Through Week 6.”

The NFL is the most powerful property in all entertainment. The TV partners that annually pay billions for the right to televise NFL games are protective of their turf. 

The network claiming the “Most-Watched Game” title gets bragging rights on Madison Avenue.

Fox already holds several “most-watched” NFL TV records. The network’s telecast of Cowboys vs New York Giants last Thanksgiving Day was the most-watched regular season game ever, drawing a monster 42 million viewers. 

Fox followed that up by broadcasting the most-watched Super Bowl ever in February. The network’s telecast of the Chiefs win over the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII  drew a record 115.1 million viewers, according to a revised report from Nielsen.

Meanwhile, NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” has ruled as the No. 1 TV show in primetime for a record 12 straight years.

Fox referred questions to Nielsen, which declined to comment for this story.

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