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Monday, May 20, 2024

Survey Says: NFL Thanksgiving Viewership Undercounted

  • NFL, Nielsen reveal holiday slate averaged 44.1 million viewers.
  • Gatherings at home or restaurants factored into increase.
Minnesota Vikings celebrate a Thanksgiving win
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Thanksgiving weekend was more bountiful on TV for the NFL than it initially thought.

According to the NFL and Nielsen, an average of 44.1 million viewers watched NFL games on Turkey Day. That’s 31% higher than the 33.6 million average initially reported.

Why the large gap? Blame it on group viewing. During the biggest holidays, friends and family gather in large groups at home or in bars, restaurants, and dorms to enjoy sports.

Some Thanksgiving revelers visit multiple locations on the same day. Others will watch the early game, eat a big meal with family and friends, then tune in for the late afternoon and prime time games.

The NFL has always suspected these “Super Bowl-like” moments were undercounted by Nielsen. Now Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league’s media partners can point to this new measurement data as proof.

“Quantifying the exact number of people watching NFL games on Thanksgiving presents additional challenges due to the fact that so many people gather in different group settings with family and friends,” said Paul Ballew, the NFL’s chief data and analytics officer, in a statement.

“As was the case with our study around the Super Bowl, we feel this Nielsen custom survey helps provide a more complete picture of the total viewership for this unique day on the NFL calendar.”

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott hugs running back Ezekiel Elliot during NFL game

Fox Sets Record for Most-Watched Regular-Season NFL Game

Cowboys-Giants drew average of 42M viewers on Thanksgiving, topping 1990 record.
November 25, 2022

More from the new NFL-Nielsen joint study:

  • The NFL aired a tripleheader on Thanksgiving Day across CBS Sports, Fox Sports, and NBC Sports. Each game reached an average of more than 20 million additional viewers, according to the survey, boosting the average-minute audience to 44.1 million.
  • Fox’s late afternoon telecast of the Dallas Cowboys’ 28-20 win over the New York Giants was the most-watched regular season game of all time. Fox drew 42 million viewers, breaking the record set by a Giants-San Francisco 49ers “Monday Night Football” on Dec. 3, 1990.
  • CBS’s telecast of the Buffalo Bills’ 28-25 win over the Detroit Lions set an early Thanksgiving window viewing record. NBC’s telecast of the Minnesota Vikings’ 33-26 victory over the New England Patriots drew the second-best Thanksgiving viewership in prime time.
  • This was the same type of custom study used by the NFL and Nielsen to revise the estimated viewing for Super Bowl LVI to 208 million viewers from the initial 110 million.
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