Stephen A. Smith Cowboys First Take Screen grab: ESPN

Leading into the Steelers-Bills NFL Playoff game on Monday, viewership for sports studio shows was ridiculous.

On Monday, ESPN’s Get Up averaged a record 979,000 viewers, while First Take followed with a mind-boggling record audience of 1.516 million. The previous record-high audience for Get Up was 730,000 viewers on January 3, 2023, while First Take‘s record audience was 918,000 on January 17, 2022 (the day after the Cowboys lost to the 49ers in the NFL Playoffs).

The strong viewership comes off of record-setting months for both shows to close 2023. Get Up averaged 467,000 viewers in November and 449,000 viewers in December, its two most-watched months ever. First Take closed the year with 611,000 viewers on average in December, its second-best month ever and the 17th straight month of year-over-year growth.

Both Get Up and First Take were up big from last year. Get Up increased by 69%, while First Take‘s audience more than doubled.

For context on First Take, the only sports broadcasts to average more viewers on Monday were the Steelers-Bills game on CBS, the Eagles-Bucs game on ABC and ESPN, and shoulder programming around that game (including the edition of SportsCenter that followed). Its average viewership even topped all three hours of WWE Raw on USA.

Later in the afternoon, the strong viewership continued on with The Pat McAfee Show, averaging a new record 811,000 viewers on ESPN, the 2 p.m. ET SportsCenter (727,000, a record since moving to the timeslot in September), and NFL Live (937,000 per an ESPN release, another record). ESPN quickly noted that McAfee’s show averaged 946,000 viewers cumulatively on ESPN, YouTube, and ESPN+.

A week earlier, leading into the College Football Playoff National Championship, Get Up averaged 531,000 viewers, First Take averaged 713,000, and The Pat McAfee Show averaged 449,000. The 2 p.m. SportsCenter and NFL Live aired on ESPN2 due to National Championship coverage.

The spikes were not limited to ESPN. Over on FS1, The Herd averaged a record 318,000 viewers on Monday. Undisputed brought in 267,000 viewers, while the audience for First Things First was 237,000. A week earlier, The Herd averaged 232,000, First Things First averaged 224,000, and Undisputed averaged 139,000.

Monday’s playoff games averaged strong audiences for CBS and ABC/ESPN. As discussed earlier this week, Steelers-Bills averaged 31.052 million viewers on CBS, while Eagles-Bucs averaged 29.18 million viewers across four networks, including ABC and ESPN.

So, what caused the huge spike in studio shows on Monday? The holiday helped, with many people off work and hanging out at home. The weekend’s playoff action, notably the Dallas Cowboys laying an egg at home in front of over 40 million viewers, naturally played a part, as did a pair of playoff games on Monday.

For the networks, Monday really was a perfect storm. It remains to be seen if the viewership surge carried over to Tuesday, with people back at work and no NFL games on the schedule.

[Data via Sports Media Watch]

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.