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Volume 26 No. 60
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NFL Game Audience Relatively Flat In '14; Fox Has Its Second-Best Season Yet

The NFL averaged an audience of 17.6 million viewers per game during the regular season, flat with the '13 campaign despite the addition of a broadcast TV partner for Thursday night games. The '14 season saw the addition of CBS as a "TNF" partner alongside NFL Network, but that Thursday night schedule extended later into the season. There also was a special Sunday morning window for a London game on Oct. 26 and two Saturday game telecasts in Week 16. Excluding those windows, the NFL averaged 18.0 million viewers. The average of 17.6 million viewers this season is still up from both the '11 and '12 seasons. Fox and NBC saw declines for their Sunday telecasts in '14, while ESPN also saw a decline for Monday games. CBS was relatively flat for its Sunday windows.

NFL REGULAR-SEASON GAME VIEWERSHIP
NETWORK
'14
'13
'12
'11
'10
NBC
21,275
21,747
21,463
21,542
21,848
Fox
20,341
21,200
19,700
20,096
20,110
CBS
18,629
18,700
17,700
18,400
18,747
ESPN
13,349
13,679
12,826
13,252
14,657
CBS/NFL Network
11,795
7,055
6,352
6,188
5,705


CHART NOTES
: Audience figures for NBC include all "SNF" games, plus NFL Kickoff. Fox audience figures included a new 9:30am ET window for an Oct. 26 London game. Excluding that window, Fox was at 20.7 million viewers for the season. Figures for CBS and NFL Network include eight "TNF" simulcasts and eight "TNF" games on NFL Net.

PRIMETIME NEWS
: NBC’s primetime package of games averaged 21.28 million viewers in ’14, down around 2% from ’13 and the lowest figure for “SNF” since ’09 (includes Thursday NFL Kickoff and Thanksgiving night games). The drop came as NBC saw an average margin of victory of 18.3 points during its games, the most-lopsided group of games since NBC began televising the Sunday primetime package in ’06. Despite the decline, “SNF” was the No. 1 show in primetime viewership in the fall for the fifth straight season. “SNF” also topped AMC’s “The Walking Dead” -- its main Sunday night competitor -- among adults 18-49. The AMC show only approaches "SNF" in the demo when it factors in a Live + 7-day audience figure. Denver dethroned New Orleans as the top market for NBC games this past season, averaging a 19.8 local rating. New Orleans, the top market in three of the past five seasons, finished second in ’14 with a 19.4 local rating. Las Vegas ranked third with a 19.2 and Seattle-Tacoma was fourth with an 18.4. Milwaukee, which ranked No. 1 in ’12, rounds out the top five this year.

DEAD AHEAD
: ESPN finished with 13.35 million viewers for “MNF” games in ’14, down 2% from last season. “MNF” also was dethroned as the most-viewed show on cable TV this fall, falling below viewership figures for “The Walking Dead.” That averaged 14.56 million viewers for its eight episodes (live + same-day figures). “MNF” had led cable TV in each of the eight seasons that ESPN had the package prior to ’14. During the eight weeks that “The Walking Dead” aired this fall, “MNF” only topped it once in viewership. Despite the overall decline, “MNF” still led ESPN to primetime wins on 12 of 16 Mondays. The 13.35 million viewers ranks as the fourth-best “MNF” average since the franchise moved to ESPN in ’06.

NEW KID ON THE BLOCK
: The addition of CBS as a partner for Thursday night games led to a dramatic increase in viewership for the primetime games. CBS and NFL Network combined to average 11.8 million viewers for the package, which was primarily “TNF,” but also included two Saturday games in Week 16. Last season, NFL Network on its own averaged 7.06 million viewers for “TNF.” The Thursday NFL audience also topped CBS’ viewership for the comparable time period of scripted and reality shows in ’13.

DAY BREAKS
: CBS averaged 18.63 million viewers for its Sunday afternoon games in ’14, flat compared to ’13. This past season marked the third-best audience for the AFC TV package in 26 years (behind only ’10 and ‘13). CBS’ numbers could have been helped by a new “cross-flex” plan that was initiated in ‘14, allowing it to produce some NFC games that it would not have had access to in the past. CBS also averaged 24.66 million viewers for its nine Sunday national windows, down slightly from 24.89 million viewers last year. Meanwhile, Fox finished with 20.34 million viewers for its Sunday game windows, down from a record-setting 21.2 million viewers last year, but still the second-best figure for Fox since it began airing the NFC package in '94. Fox' average jumps to 20.7 million viewers when the 9:30am Lions-Falcons game from Oct. 26 is excluded. The net’s nine Sunday national window telecasts will mark the most-viewed program on all of TV for the sixth straight year, averaging 26.9 million viewers, which is down from 27.2 million viewers in ’13.

STAR BRIGHT: The Cowboys played in four of the top 10 most-viewed games in '14, the most of any one team. Fox' Eagles-Cowboys telecast on Thanksgiving was the most-viewed game, with 32.03 million viewers in the late afternoon window. Fox had five of the 10 most-viewed games. Seven of the top 10 were during Sunday national windows, while only one primetime game (Packers-Seahawks NFL Kickoff) ranked in the top 10.

MOST-VIEWED NFL GAMES DURING '14 REGULAR SEASON
NET
DATE
TELECAST
VIEWERS (000)
Fox
11/27
Eagles-Cowboys (Thanksgiving)
32,031
CBS
11/30
Patriots-Packers (98%)
30,878
Fox
10/12
Cowboys-Seahawks (69%)
30,016
CBS
11/27
Bears-Lions (Thanksgiving)
29,411
CBS
11/2
Broncos-Patriots (92%)
29,094
Fox
12/28
Lions-Packers (87%)
28,510
Fox
9/7
49ers-Cowboys (89%)
28,054
CBS
9/21
Broncos-Seahawks (89%)
27,296
NBC
9/4
Packers-Seahawks (NFL Kickoff)
27,124
Fox
10/19
Giants-Cowboys (92%)
26,976