After suffering a ratings downturn in the first half of the season, Sunday Night Football has rebounded to the point where it will once again finish as broadcast TV’s number one primetime show. And thanks to having the Dallas Cowboys in December, SNF averaged at least 21 million viewers for three consecutive December games for the first time since 2010.
According to Nielsen, viewership for SNF since the election rose 10%. And it’s averaged 21.2 million viewers for eight games dating back to November 13. For the first ten games, SNF was averaging 19.3 million viewers.
This past Sunday, the Denver-Kansas City game on Christmas night on NBC had an average audience of 21.4 million viewers making it the most-watched Week 16 SNF game since the Bears-Packers got 24 million in 2011.
For Weeks 14-16, NBC saw an increase in viewership for each game as compared to the previous season.
The fact that the NFL’s premier primetime package is doing better in the second half of the season reflects what has happened to the league’s TV partners after the election. As Sunday Night Football was able to air the Cowboys twice in December and having some compelling games during that period, the numbers were able to rebound.
And again, the NFL will point to the election that brought the numbers down in the first half of the season. Certainly how Sunday Night Football was able to recover since Election Day will give credence to the NFL’s theory.
NBC will say the second half of the season is the true indicator of the popularity of Sunday Night Football and being able to bring its viewership over 21 million once again provides the evidence to advertisers that it’s football that attract an audience that no scripted can.