NBC's Sunday Night Football was television's highest-rated prime-time series in 2013, a feat it has accomplished three years in a row. Total viewership rose 1.5 percent from last year, reaching an all-time high dating back to 2006, which was NBC's first year doing SNF, and the average rating/share grew slightly from 12.8/20 to 12.8/21, per Nielsen and a press release issued by NBC's communications department.
In terms of that share, it still can't get back to that high watermark of 13.0/21, set in 2010, but the fact that SNF is even hovering in that general range despite the continual saturation of the prime-time market is amazing. As we noted last month, cable shows like The Walking Dead have inevitably taken a bite out of NBC's and ESPN's numbers. And, anecdotally, online streaming (the illegal kind) has seemingly become more prominent.
That has us wondering how insanely high NBC's viewership numbers would be if not for those developments. We'll never know, but it's safe to conclude that the NFL isn't becoming any less popular, despite all of the fear over concussions having an impact on the game's reputation.
The Sunday afternoon numbers appear to back that up. CBS announced on Thursday that its 11.1/22 average national rating/share from 2013 was up four percent from 2012 and the highest for the AFC package since 1994. The network's average viewership was also up six percent and was the second-highest number on record (going back 26 years).
And the NFL on Fox had its most-watched season in history, according to the network's PR department. Joe Buck is essentially the most-watched and listened to man in American television. And in addition to increasing Sunday ratings, Monday and Thursday Night Football saw numbers rise as well, so every network package was trending upward in 2013.
We've become desensitized to the unbelievable numbers in these annual reports, but all you need to know is that while ratings for most television programs continue to drop for obvious reasons, everything the NFL touches somehow continues to turn to gold. And this probably makes all four networks with live rights feel a whole lot better about the fact they'll be paying the league a combined $4.95 billion per year to broadcast games, starting this August.