I can see the headlines now from outlets that don’t cover sports media with any regularity: “NFL ratings down 5% halfway through the season!”
And while it’s a true statement, there’s a caveat to it: four of the NFL’s media packages are in fine shape. One is, as expected, driving the decline.
That package is Prime Video’s Thursday Night Football. But you knew that already.
Last year, with games airing on Fox and NFL Network, TNF averaged 12.317 million viewers through Week 8. This year, with games airing on Prime Video and local broadcast stations in the markets playing, TNF is averaging 10.290 million viewers to this point. That’s a decline of 16% from the move to streaming.
The NFL’s other packages have seen minimal changes in viewership compared to last season. NBC’s Sunday Night Football is down 1% to 20.550 million viewers this season. CBS is also down 1% to 17.877 million viewers. Fox is up 1% to 17.503 million viewers. ESPN’s Monday Night Football is flat, averaging 13.719 million viewers.
So, that’s four packages down by a combined 196,000 viewers…and one down by over two million. Yikes. The shift to streaming was always going to have growing pains, and the NFL isn’t going to look for an out after half of one season, but it’s still illuminating to see the degree of the struggles so far.
For whatever its worth, all of the packages aside from Fox (which is flat), including TNF, are up this year from 2020. Then again, given the trainwreck that was live sports viewership in the final three-quarters of 2020, networks should be concerned if any of their properties are *down* from 2020 instead of being thrilled they’re up.