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Volume 27 No. 30
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NFL Wraps '18 Season Up 5%, With All TV Partners Seeing Gains

The NFL gained back some of its viewership losses during the ’18 regular season, with game audiences up 5% across the board. The league had seen nearly an 18% drop over the last two seasons. NFL games in ’18 averaged 15.76 million viewers across Fox, CBS, NBC, ESPN and NFL Network, up from 14.96 million last season, but still down from 16.5 million viewers two seasons ago. However, NFL viewership in ’18 is up from 15.0 million viewers for the '07 season, and up from 14.5 million for the '06 season. All TV partners saw gains this season. ESPN had the biggest percentage gain (+8%) among those partners, as well as its best “MNF” viewership since ’15. Fox also was up in its first season with the “TNF” package.

NFL REGULAR-SEASON GAME VIEWERSHIP
NETWORK(S)
'18 (000)
'17 (000)
'16 (000)
'15 (000)
'14 (000)
NBC
19,254
18,180
20,323
22,522
21,275
Fox
18,031
17,659
19,434
20,706
20,728
CBS
16,538
15,669
17,671
19,058
18,629
Fox/NFL Network
14,304
14,084
15,892
17,599
16,090
ESPN
11,647
10,788
11,390
12,896
13,349
NFL Network
6,558
6,113
6,740
7,508
7,464
NOTES: NBC's "SNF" package includes NFL Kickoff game and a Thanksgiving primetime game. There also was no Week 17 "SNF" in '17, while the Week 16 "SNF" in '17 was on a Saturday night to avoid Christmas Eve. The Fox/NFL Net listed above is a "TNF" average for Fox games with an NFL Net simulcast (Amazon streaming not included). For '17 and '16, those averages are for NBC/CBS. For '15 and '14, CBS only. ESPN's Week 16 "MNF" game in '18 fell on Christmas Eve, while in '17, the Week 16 game fell on Christmas night. NFL Net's solo listing above is for games airing exclusively on the league-owned net.
Download the
2018 NFL game viewership

KEEP ON TRUCKIN’: NBC won on two fronts with the ’18 regular season. The net saw a 6% viewership bump for its “SNF” package of games, while also keeping its streak alive as the most-watched primetime show on all of TV (eight years running). NBC’s games averaged 19.3 million viewers in ’18, up from 18.2 million in ’17, but still below 20.3 million in ’16. NBC, which acquired the “SNF” package prior to the ’06 season, peaked in ’15 with 22.5 million viewers. Its figure in ’18 also is well above the 16.6 million viewers it averaged in its first season in ’06. When streaming figures are included, NBC averaged a total audience delivery of 19.6 million viewers for “SNF,” up 7% from last season. “SNF” also had a larger lead on its primetime competition than ever before in ’18. “SNF” was 35% higher than the No. 2 program -- Fox’ “TNF” package -- and 52% better than the No. 3, CBS’ “Big Bang Theory.” Similar to “MNF,” New Orleans was the top market for “SNF” games in ’18. The Big Easy regained the top spot for the first time since ’13. Milwaukee, last season’s top “SNF” market, slipped to No. 4 in ’18.

BEAUTIFUL DAY: Sunday afternoon windows bounced back for Fox and CBS in ’18. Fox averaged 18.0 million viewers, up 2% from 17.7 million last season, but still down from 19.4 million two seasons ago. However, ’18 was still strong historically for Fox. The 18.0 million viewers is 6% higher than what Fox had in ’08, and 16% higher than what the net drew in ’03. Fox' package of nine national windows averaged 22.1 million viewers, down 3% from ’17 (22.7 million). That was the only NFL game window to see a decline this season, as some bigger matchups moved to “MNF” or “TNF” in ’18 to boost the fortunes of those packages. However, Fox' Sunday national games remain the most-watched window on all of TV (10 years running now), as well as the top NFL window for the 18th straight season. Meanwhile, CBS’ average of 16.5 million viewers on Sunday afternoons was up 6% from ’17 (15.7 million), but down from 17.7 million two seasons ago.

STREAMS OF THOUGHT: Viewing of NFL games on digital devices looked stronger in ’18. Fox had an average minute audience of 240,000 viewers for its Sunday afternoon windows, up 108% from 115,000 in ’17. NBC, whose app was available on mobile phones for the first time (tablets only in previous years), had an AMA of 318,000 viewers, up 81% from 176,000 last season.

ADVANCE TEAMS: The higher-profile NFL pregame shows had mixed results in ‘18. “Fox NFL Sunday” in the 12:00pm ET window averaged 4.7 million viewers, flat compared to ’17. “Fox NFL Kickoff” in the 11:00am window averaged 1.4 million viewers, down 1% from ’17. Meanwhile, CBS, NBC and ESPN had more positive results. CBS’ “The NFL Today” averaged 3.3 million viewers, up 4% from ’17. For NBC, “Football Night in America” from 7:30-8:15pm averaged 7.1 million viewers, up from 6.9 million. ESPN averaged 1.2 million viewers for "Sunday NFL Countdown" this season, up 4%. But "Monday NFL Countdown" (1.3 million viewers) was down 20%, as the show was cut back by 15 minutes per episode this season compared to '17.

GAME THEORY: Among the top 15 most-watched games this season, Fox had eight telecasts, while CBS had four and NBC had three. The two Thanksgiving afternoon games were the top games. Fox’ Redskins-Cowboys on Turkey Day led the way with 30.5 million viewers, while CBS’ Bears-Lions drew 26.6 million. Packers-Patriots on Nov. 4 was the top primetime game of ’18 with 23.7 million viewers. Only one “TNF” game cracked the list -- Saints-Cowboys on Nov. 29 -- which also marked the second-best “TNF” on record. The Cowboys had five of their matchups crack the top 15 in ’18, while the Saints had four.

MOST-WATCHED NFL GAMES DURING '18 REGULAR SEASON
TELECAST
DATE
NET(S)
TIME (ET)
VIEWERS (000)
Redskins-Cowboys (Thanksgiving)
11/22
Fox
4:36-7:57pm
30,524
Bears-Lions (Thanksgiving)
11/22
CBS
12:49-3:48pm
26,610
Eagles-Cowboys
12/9
Fox
4:25-7:54pm
25,124
Patriots-Steelers
12/16
CBS
4:25-7:30pm
24,566
Steelers-Saints
12/23
CBS
4:25-7:40pm
23,919
Packers-Patriots
11/4
NBC
8:24-11:25pm
23,677
Steelers-Broncos
11/25
CBS
4:29-7:30pm
23,656
Cowboys-Panthers
9/9
Fox
4:15-7:40pm
23,303
Vikings-Patriots
12/2
Fox
4:45-7:30pm
23,204
Cowboys-Seahawks
9/23
Fox
4:15-7:30pm
22,195
Rams-Saints
11/4
Fox
4:25-7:47pm
22,119
Bears-Packers
9/9
NBC
8:23-11:31pm
22,117
Packers-Rams
10/28
Fox
4:25-7:00pm
21,879
Falcons-Saints (Thanksgiving)
11/22
NBC
8:23-11:08pm
21,727
Saints-Cowboys
11/29
Fox/NFL Net
8:23-11:30pm
21,316
Download the
Top 2018 NFL games