Despite the fact the Baltimore Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers game was branded under the Thursday Night Football package and played on Sunday, Christmas Day causing massive confusion, it still set a viewership record. Thanks to the game being played in the late afternoon, starting at 4:30 p.m. ET and being the only NFL contest scheduled in that window, NFL Network reaped the benefits.
The game registered a 6.5 fast national US household rating. And the viewership averaged 14.8 million people watching marking the game as the most-watched regular season game on NFL Network. The previous record for NFL Network was 10.7 million viewers for a San Francisco-Baltimore game in November 2011.
Viewership for Ravens-Steelers peaked at 18.5 million viewers between 7:15 and 7:30 p.m. ET as Pittsburgh was driving for what was eventually the game winning score.
A few factors for the strong viewership numbers for Ravens-Steelers. One, it aired only on NFL Network. Even it was produced by NBC, Baltimore-Pittsburgh was the last of six games that would be televised on NFL Network only.
Two, with the bulk of the Week 16 schedule played the day before on Christmas Eve and the only competition coming from the NBA on ABC, the Ravens-Steelers game had the attention of sports fans on Christmas Day.
And third, the game went down to the wire with the Steelers winning in the waning seconds.
Put it all together and no matter that it was a Thursday Night Football game played on a Sunday, fans watched. Granted, it wasn’t as high had it been on CBS or Fox in the same late Sunday afternoon window, but the fact that the game was able to attract viewers on Christmas Day gives NFL Network some food for thought the next time the holiday falls on a Sunday.