Commentators, from left, Jac Collinsworth, Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison talk on-air for NBC/Peacock Sunday Night Football after the game of a regular season NFL football matchup Sunday, Dec. 17, 2023 at EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla.

In many ways, the modern world has broken our brains. That’s especially true when it comes to how we process media.

For the longest time, it was pretty easy to tell if a TV program, music album, or movie was a success. You found out what the ratings, sales, or box office numbers were and that pretty much told you everything you needed to know.

Now, if you want to figure out how successful a TV program is, well, are we talking about a network show, a cable show, or a streaming show? Are you only taking into account when it premieres or are you including secondary and tertiary viewing windows? Do you include streaming numbers? Do you even have access to the streaming numbers? And if you do, can you trust them? Does the viral conversation and meme-ification on social media match with what the network/streaming service is telling you?

To say nothing of the new world order we find ourselves in when it comes to the NFL and streaming services. On Black Friday, Amazon broadcast a Miami Dolphins-New York Jets game exclusively on Prime Video. The ratings were pretty low by NFL standards, and plenty of people pounced to say it proved this was a bad idea. But the ratings were never the point of that game for Amazon. They didn’t shell out $100 million expecting to break viewing records. They shelled out $100 million to keep people home and introduce millions of shoppers to their customized advertising and purchasing opportunities that will become commonplace very soon. Even if it was a loss leader, we can be sure it paid off for the corporate overlord.

This past weekend, in the face of much Sturm und Drang, Peacock exclusively broadcast the Wild Card Round playoff game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins for the tidy sum of $110 million. Around 23 million people tuned in to watch Kansas City’s 26-7 win. While that number came in well below all of the other playoff games that weekend, NBC Sports and Peacock were over the moon about it.

Quite a few people in the sports media world took the NFL to task over the results, saying that they’d missed out on millions of viewers because of their greed.

If there is any entity in America that has absolutely no problem missing out on 10-12 million viewers to create an entirely new revenue stream, it’s the NFL. More specifically, they’re the ONLY entity in America that could even attempt it.

The NFL has arguably never been more successful. Thanks to streaming, Super Bowl LVII was the most-watched U.S. broadcast ever. We’re coming off of the second-most-watched NFL season ever. NFL partner CBS had its most-watched season since they started broadcasting games again in 1998. ESPN and ABC’s Monday Night Football viewership soared to heights not seen since 2000. 96 of the top 100 U.S. telecasts of 2023 were NFL games.

In a modern world where our cultural interests and focuses are dissected by entertainment options, social media platforms, and generational divides, the NFL may truly be the last American monoculture.

To put it another way, the NFL is, effectively, a drug dealer. And we are all addicts.

Did you spend years complaining about how the league went woke? You’re still watching.

Did you have a lot of serious discussions about the impact of concussions and CTE? You’re still watching.

Did you complain about NFL games moving to streaming services with paywalls? You’re still watching.

And even if you didn’t tune in to Peacock this past weekend, you know who was paying attention? Apple, Amazon, Warner Bros. Discovery, Netflix, Google, and Meta.

They watched a streaming service capture 23 million viewers in one go, a sizable number of whom paid specifically for this event, with more of them than you think sticking around (or forgetting to cancel their subscription). They started thinking about their own streaming services, and the technologies and advertising they can incorporate into a live broadcast, and they thought to themselves, “This could work for us.”

The thing is, Amazon’s $100-million Black Friday game and Peacock’s $110-million playoff game were just the tastes. If you want another fix, the price just went up. Next time, and there will be a next time, that exclusive game will run you $150 million. Or maybe $200 million.

Maybe fewer people watch those games than network broadcasts, but the NFL will be sitting on a pile of cash that more than makes up for it. And if one or two games have lackluster ratings, the next one will be watched by 30, 40, or 50 million people to make up for it.

Trust us when we say no points were proven last weekend. No lessons were learned. Unless you’re referring to the fact that the NFL and its new base of broadcasting partners saw proof of concept for their business models.

Complain all you like, it won’t stop what’s coming. And it won’t stop you from watching.

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to