NFL Viewership Bounces Back, Up 7%

    • The NFL averaged 17.4 million viewers during its first week of the season.
    • ESPN brought in the largest number of viewers for a season opener since 2013.

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Week 1 of the NFL season is in the books, and the league’s viewership numbers are up 7% compared to the same period last year.

The NFL averaged 17.4 million viewers per game over traditional and online platforms, bouncing back from its dip last year — the first decline it had experienced in three seasons.

For the broadcasters who spent a total of $105 billion for broadcasting rights over the next decade, the early numbers look promising.

  • The “Monday Night Football” opener between the Las Vegas Raiders and Baltimore Ravens brought in the largest number of viewers an ESPN NFL opener has seen since 2013 at 15.2 million — up 42% from last year’s game.
  • CBS’ two Sunday afternoon games brought in an average of 16.6 million viewers, a 21% increase from 2020’s opening weekend. 
  • With an audience of 19.5 million, CBS says its Cleveland Browns-Kansas City Chiefs game was its most-watched opening weekend game since 2015.
  • NBC reached a total audience of 22.9 million for its Thursday and Sunday night games, an 11% increase, though its “Sunday Night Football” broadcast slipped 4% from last year.

ESPN’s first “MegaCast” with Peyton and Eli Manning brought in 800,000 viewers alone, and Disney’s strategy of airing games across multiple platforms earned it a 59% increase in viewership from last year.

The biggest indication of a renewed interest in the NFL, however, might have been on Sunday, when a record 6.3 billion minutes were consumed, the highest figure ever for opening week.