Lamar Jackson Ravens Jan 20, 2024; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) runs the ball to score a touchdown against Houston Texans defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (98) and defensive tackle Khalil Davis (94) during the fourth quarter of a 2024 AFC divisional round game at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Ravens’ 34-10 win over the Houston Texans on Saturday afternoon brought a record audience to ESPN.

Per a Monday release, the AFC Divisional Round game averaged 31.8 million viewers across ABC, ESPN, and ESPN+ per Nielsen’s fast nationals, the most-watched NFL game ever for the network.

ESPN notes that when Nielsen’s final numbers come in, the game’s viewership is expected to cross 32 million viewers.

Keep in mind that Nielsen did not measure out-of-home audiences until the 2020 season.

ESPN’s previous most-watched game ever came just last year, when the Cowboys-Bucs Wild Card Playoff game averaged 31.201 million viewers. A week earlier, the Eagles-Bucs Wild Card game averaged 29.132 million viewers, then the second-most watched Playoff game for ESPN.

The top five was rounded out by a pair of Monday Night Football audiences during the 2023 season, with Eagles-Chiefs averaging 28.962 million viewers and Ravens-49ers on Christmas Day averaging 27.616 million.

This is also the most-watched non-Super Bowl on Disney-owned networks since Disney took ownership of ABC in February 1996, which includes 24 other Playoff games and every regular season game.

For ESPN, this game was the exclamation point on a dynamite year for its NFL coverage. Powered by a full season of simulcasts on ABC, Monday Night Football had its best season since 2000, with its four largest audiences in the same period. Two Playoff games aired on ESPN, ranking as the first and fourth most-watched games in the Disney era.

The NFL season isn’t quite over yet for ESPN. The network will exclusively air the Pro Bowl Games in two weeks, and while the reimagined Pro Bowl can’t draw viewership on par with regular season (let alone Playoff) NFL games, last year’s event topped six million viewers. That’s still a stronger audience than every All-Star Game aside from MLB’s, which is somehow falling to new depths each year.


About Joe Lucia

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