While the NFL’s viewership remains down for the 2020 season, and several windows remained down in Week 11, this could be the most promising week of the year for the league.
Fox had this week’s doubleheader, and results were mixed. The early half, with Falcons-Saints going to half the country, drew 12.74 million viewers. That’s up 1% from last year’s doubleheader front half (12.62 million for Texans-Ravens on CBS). The late half of the doubleheader drew a whopping 23.911 million viewers, the second most-watched window of the season (Bucs-Saints in Week 1 drew 25.85 million viewers, still the best window of the season), but Packers-Colts was down 4% from a year ago on CBS (Patriots-Eagles, 24.89 million viewers).
CBS had the Week 11 singleheader, and drew 14.686 million viewers for a six game window (Titans-Ravens getting the most distribution), down 12% from last year’s singleheader on Fox (Cowboys-Lions to half the country, 16.76 million viewers).
NBC got a surprising increase for Sunday Night Football. The Chiefs’ dramatic win over the Raiders drew 19.573 million viewers, up 16% from Bears-Rams last year (16.85 million viewers). That’s the most-watched SNF game of the year, and just the second increase for the season (Week 2’s Patriots-Seahawks game was up less than a percent).
ESPN also got an increase for Monday Night Football. Rams-Bucs drew 12.612 million viewers, essentially flat (but up less than a percent!) from Chiefs-Chargers a year ago. It’s the third most watched MNF game of the year, behind Saints-Raiders in Week 2 (which was simulcast on ABC and ESPN2 across the country and drew 15.59 million viewers) and Chiefs-Ravens in Week 3 (14.70 million viewers). It’s also the fifth MNF window this year to increase, joining those two aforementioned weeks, Week 7 (up 1%), and Week 8 (up 17%).
On Thursday, TNF drew a season-high audience, but was down 4% from Steelers-Browns in 2019.
Weeks 12 and 13 will feature some odd comparisons because of Thanksgiving, which occurred during Week 13 last year and is in Week 12 this year. I’ll still do the normal Sunday and Monday comps next week, but Thursday’s three (possibly two?) games will be comped to the Thanksgiving games from last season instead of the traditional TNF window. Those three Thanksgiving games this year are Texans-Lions in the early afternoon window on CBS, Washington-Dallas in the late afternoon window on Fox, and Ravens-Steelers (for now) in primetime on NBC.
Last year, all three Thanksgiving games topped 20 million viewers, peaking with a ridiculous 32.64 million viewers for Bills-Cowboys on CBS. I’d be shocked if any of this year’s games reached that peak. As for the rest of Week 12, we’ve got Packers-Bears on SNF, which will be comped to Packers-49ers from a year ago (20.83 million viewers) and Seahawks-Eagles on MNF, which will be compared to Ravens-Rams (a pretty poor 10.93 million viewers). CBS has the Week 12 doubleheader, and while its best games early are Raiders-Falcons, Chargers-Bills, and Titans-Colts, it has a potential game of the season late in Chiefs-Bucs. Fox has the singleheader, and its best games are Panthers-Vikings and Cardinals-Patriots early and 49ers-Rams late.