ESPN’s Monday Night Football booth takes a lot of criticism, but now that the network’s 17-game slate of regular season broadcasts is finished, the viewership numbers showed why the NFL rights remain so important to the network.
As ESPN’s season-end release notes, MNF gave ESPN cable’s most-watched series and sixteen ratings wins, along with a total viewership growth for the second year in a row.
ESPN’s Monday Night Football scored its most-viewed regular season since 2015, finishing the 17-game NFL schedule in 2019 with 12,569,000 viewers – up eight percent year-over-year (11,654,000 in 2018). MNF has now posted consecutive seasons with eight percent viewership gains and is up an impressive 17 percent overall versus 2017 (10,788,000). MNF also ranks as cable’s most-watched series for the third straight year.
The litany of accomplishments is certainly impressive:
2019 MNF Season Highlights:
ESPN’s most-watched MNF season since 2015
MNF is the most-watched series on cable for the third straight year.
MNF accounted for 16 of the top 20 most-watched telecasts on cable in 2019 (Live + Same Day, excluding telecasts less than 15 minutes).
MNF was the most-watched telecast on all 16 Mondays in households, viewers and all key male and adult demos.
MNF helped ESPN win the night all 16 Mondays this season among all networks in households, viewers and all key male and adult demos (18-34, 18-49, 25-54).
MNF’s most-watched game of the season was Seahawks-49ers on Nov. 11 with 16,734,000 viewers – the most-watched MNF game since Lions-Cowboys in Dec. 2016.
MNF’s top-10 metered markets in 2019: New Orleans (15.8), San Diego (11.5), Richmond (10.7), Las Vegas (10.5), Denver (10.5), Buffalo (10.4), Seattle-Tacoma (10.3), Kansas City (10.3), Albuquerque (10.1) and Cleveland (9.9).
The ESPN NFL season isn’t over, either; they still have a Wild Card game (to be determined once playoff matchups are set after Sunday), along with the Pro Bowl in January. Since Jimmy Pitaro made reaffirming ESPN’s commitment to the NFL a priority after taking over as president, there have been plenty of signs that ESPN is going to try and maintain their Monday Night Football rights, for which the network pays $1.9 billion annually in a deal that runs through 2021.
These numbers, especially for a cable network, may help reinforce the viability of that approach, which is a stark difference from where the network looked to be heading as recently as 2017, prior to Pitaro’s regime.