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Saturday, April 20, 2024
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NFL Caps Dominate Regular Season (Again), This Time up 7% in Ratings

  • The league continues to grow its TV stature while the rest of the broadcast landscape shrinks.
  • Gains are also achieved in several key demographic segments.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL concluded its 2023 regular season in much the same fashion as it began: with the league in a dominant position and only getting stronger.

The league averaged 17.9 million viewers per game across all networks for the regular season, up by 7% from a year ago and the NFL’s best figure since 2015. In addition to the aggregate viewership bump, each of the league’s domestic rights-holders showed growth from 2022:

  • Amazon: Up 24% to an average of 11.86 million for Thursday Night Football.
  • CBS: Up 5% to an average of 19.35 million for overall coverage and an average of 24.64 million for late Sunday afternoon games. CBS also had the season’s most-watched game with an average of 41.76 million for the Washington-Dallas game on Thanksgiving.
  • ESPN: Up 29% to an average of 17.4 million for Monday Night Football.
  • Fox: Up 2% to an average of 24.62 million for its America’s Game of the Week national broadcasts. The network was down 2% overall to 19 million for its NFL coverage.
  • NBC: Up 8% to an average of 21.4 million for Sunday Night Football

The league’s viewership improvement is the result of several factors, including weaker overall broadcast primetime performance due to the writers’ and actors’ strikes, better scheduling that allowed for top contests in national windows, a heightened emphasis on Christmas Day, and additional exposure of ESPN’s Monday Night Football on sister broadcast network ABC. 

The NFL’s rating growth contrasts sharply with a comparable 16% drop in overall broadcast primetime viewership to a record-low figure of 2.8 million, with that figure owing heavily to a decrease in original entertainment programming due to the strikes. So while the rest of the broadcast landscape is shrinking, the NFL continues to build its audience. 

The NFL also showed improvement in several, more-specific measures including female viewership, which rose 9% to its highest level since that record keeping began in 2000, as well as the best levels of viewership in the under-35 demographic since 2019. The league further flexed its television prowess by claiming 93 of Nielsen’s top 100 broadcasts in 2023. 

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