NFL, college football continue TV ratings dominance with upsets and thrillers: Sports on TV

The NFL is again and reveals zero signal of loosening its grip on US tv viewership.

Pittsburgh’s wild extra time victory over defending AFC champion Cincinnati — that includes a five-turnover efficiency from Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow — led CBS’ Week 1 NFL early window that averaged 17.38 million viewers on Sunday.

That’s the community’s most-watched Week 1 regional window for the reason that NFL returned to CBS in 1998, the broadcaster stated. Week 1 was up 21 p.c over the identical window a yr in the past.

Nielsen NFL metrics are by community broadcast home windows — 1 pm and 4 pm, and many others. — somewhat than for particular person video games (except it is a single sport). Steelers-Bengals had probably the most geographic tv protection, in accordance with a map from, whereas CBS’ different early regional video games included Dolphins-Patriots, Ravens-Jets, Colts-Texans and Browns-Panthers.

CBS’ afternoon nationwide window averaged 16.61 million, with many of the nation seeing the Chiefs blow out the Cardinals whereas many of the West Coast alongside with Nevada and Utah bought Raiders-Chargers. That window could not match final yr’s Chiefs-Browns rematch of a 2020 playoff sport, which propelled the community to 19.5 million within the late afternoon.

Fox’s early video games have been led by 49ers-Bears in a window that averaged 12.14 million viewers whereas three others have been cut up regionally: Eagles-Lions, Saints-Falcons, and Jaguars-Commanders.

Fox was the massive winner with its 4:30 pm nationwide window that averaged 18.54 million viewers for Packers-Vikings, which was seen by many of the nation, with the Giants-Titans broadcast round Tennessee and New York and a few of New England. That was up 12 p.c over 2021’s equal window.

Last season, CBS’ early regional window in Week 1 averaged 13.93 million, whereas its afternoon nationwide window averaged 19.53 million viewers. On Fox in 2021, the early regional window averaged 11.18 million whereas the afternoon nationwide window averaged 16.23 million through the opening weekend.

And now the actually large numbers from Week 1.

Tampa Bay’s 19-3 win over Dallas averaged 25.1 million whole viewers (TV + streaming) for NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” broadcast, the community stated, which might make it the most effective SNF opener viewers since Giants-Cowboys averaged 26.9 million in 2015. The quantity is predicated on knowledge for linear NBC, Peacock, NBC Sports and NFL digital platforms, the community stated. Tom Brady and the Cowboys have each lengthy been main TV attracts, so it is little shock the community, given the possibility, would showcase ratings hogs in Week 1.

Tom Brady taking on the Cowboys was an amazing TV combine for NBC’s first “Sunday Night Football” sport of the yr. (Kevin Jairaj / USA Today)

Last yr’s Bears-Rams SNF opener (on Week 1’s precise Sunday, not the SNF-branded Thursday prime-time opener) averaged 18.6 million. “Sunday Night Football” has been the most-watched prime-time program throughout all US tv for 11 years.

The season-opening particular version of “Sunday Night Football” final Thursday averaged 21.7 million viewers for NBC’s broadcast of the Bills’ 31-10 win over the defending champion Rams. A yr in the past, the Thursday evening SNF-branded season opener between Dallas and Tampa Bay averaged 24.81 million viewers. This yr’s opener could have misplaced somewhat viewers to the continued US protection of the loss of life of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.

Not but obtainable: Audience numbers for Seattle’s shock win over Denver — now quarterbacked by ex-Seahawks star Russell Wilson after a blockbuster offseason commerce — on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.”

What does all of it imply? The NFL numbers continue to be unimaginable in mild of the continued troubled state of the TV trade, which is dealing with general viewership declines as tens of hundreds of thousands of US properties drop cable in favor of streaming and even nothing in any respect. The pandemic accelerated a number of the trade traits, but the NFL stays one of many lesser-affected TV properties.

NFL regular-season video games final season averaged 17.1 million viewers, recovering from 14.9 million through the worst of the 2020 pandemic downturn. The historic peak was 18.1 million in 2015.

One factor to bear in mind when networks and the league examine a present sport’s viewers to something previous to 2020 is that Nielsen did not measure out-of-home viewership (bars, eating places, inns, viewing events at different properties, and many others.) till two years in the past, and that may add as much as 10 p.c or extra to an NFL sport’s viewers. That means video games earlier than 2020 seemingly had greater viewership than what’s formally reported.

That stated, the NFL’s stranglehold on American TV is astonishing. Up subsequent is a problem to that: The Chargers and Chiefs kick off at 8:15 pm Thursday for the season’s first “Thursday Night Football” streaming on Amazon Prime Video and Amazon-owned Twitch whereas being on TV solely within the Los Angeles and Kansas City native markets. TNF averaged 16.4 million mixed viewers on Fox, NFL Network, and Amazon final season, and Amazon has reportedly advised advertisers to anticipate one thing like 12 million-plus this season behind the streaming paywall.

(And here is how you can discover all of the reside video games amid a complicated panorama of networks and streamers in 2022.)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: A weekend of untamed video games and upsets was led by one of many sport’s main powerhouses — on the sector and on TV — with 10.59 million on Fox watching Alabama wrestle to beat Texas, 20-19.

That was the community’s “Big Noon” sport and comes per week after a few college football’s different viewers juggernauts, Ohio State and Notre Dame, averaged 10.53 million in prime time on ABC.

The Crimson Tide’s victory peaked with 15.12 million viewers from 3:15-3:30 pm, the community stated. Fox stated the sport was the fourth most-watched in community historical past, trailing solely the Ohio State-Michigan video games.

Last season, no college sport broached double-digit million regular-season viewership till Ohio State-Michigan (15.9 million, Fox) and Alabama-Auburn (10.36 million, CBS) in Week 13, per Sports Media Watch’s viewers monitoring.

Three different video games final week topped 4 million viewers:

  • Clemson’s 41-10 rout of Georgia Tech in primetime on Sept. 5 (a Monday with out the NFL) averaged a wholesome 4.85 million regardless of the rating differential.
  • On Saturday, Tennessee edging Pitt, 34-27, in extra time on ABC in a midafternoon kickoff averaged 4.45 million viewers.
  • Kentucky’s 26-16 win over host Florida in primetime Saturday on ESPN averaged 4.33 million viewers.

In different fascinating matchups, 2.47 million watched Marshall thunder into South Bend and stun Notre Dame, 26-21, in a Saturday afternoon kickoff on NBC. Maybe this one ought to have been a Peacock unique?

New head coach Marcus Freeman’s Notre Dame squad is 0-3 after a surprising house loss to Marshall in entrance of two.47 million viewers on NBC. (Matt Cashore / USA Today)

Appalachian State, maybe greatest recognized to many followers for its historic upset of Michigan in 2007, knocked off then-No. 6 Texas A&M, 17-14, in College Station in a shocker seen by 1.77 million on Saturday in a late-afternoon kickoff on ESPN2.

Georgia Southern’s 45-42 highway upset of Nebraska in prime time Saturday on FS1 averaged 1.24 million viewers.

ABC’s Saturday prime-time broadcast of USC beating Stanford, 41-28, averaged 2.9 million.

A reminder that sports activities viewership is pushed by many elements: matchup, storylines, star gamers, kickoff time, day of the week, broadcast versus cable, competitors on different channels, blowout or thriller, and many others.

Audience numbers weren’t instantly obtainable for the Michigan-Hawaii or Ohio State-Arkansas State video games on the Big Ten Network.

WNBA: Game 1 of the WNBA Finals averaged 555,000 viewers for the Las Vegas Aces edging the Connecticut Sun, 67-64, on Sunday on ABC.

It tipped off at 3 pm, which meant some viewers was seemingly siphoned by NFL video games. Three of the finals video games face NFL competitors, though Thursday’s Game 3 could endure much less as a result of “Thursday Night Football” now streams on Amazon Prime Video somewhat than airing nationally on Fox and NFL Network.

A yr in the past, the Chicago Sky-Phoenix Mercury four-game finals averaged 548,000 viewers on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2. That was the most effective WNBA finals viewers common since 559,000 in 2017.

The W’s 2022 regular-season viewership on Disney-owned networks (ESPN, ESPN2, ABC) averaged 372,000 per sport and was its greatest since 2008 and up 21 p.c over 2021. With CBS video games included, WNBA video games averaged 379,000 viewers this season.

The league’s playoffs heading into the finals have been an excellent greater success story, averaging 439,000 viewers on ESPN networks — the most effective common since 2002, per Sports Media Watch.

Game 2 of the finals is at 9 pm Tuesday with the Suns on the Aces, and Game 3 is 9 pm Thursday, each on ESPN. A Game 4 could be at 4 pm Sunday, and a Game 5 could be 9 pm Sept. 20, additionally on ESPN.

TENNIS: The US Open noticed new names topped as singles champions final weekend, however ESPN’s viewers metrics slipped significantly with out Serena Williams or the long-lasting males’s names which have dominated for therefore lengthy.

Spain’s 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz gained the lads’s singles title on Sunday, beating Norway’s Casper Ruud in 4 units on ESPN with 2.15 million viewers.

On the ladies’s facet, Poland’s Iga Świątek beat Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur in straight units on Saturday. The match averaged 1.77 million viewers.

The event earlier loved a TV increase for Williams’ last matches forward of retirement. The GOAT’s three-set, third-round loss to Ajla Tomljanovic on Sept. 2 averaged 4.8 million viewers, making it the biggest tennis viewers in ESPN’s historical past, the community stated. It broke the mark of three.9 million for Roger Federer’s Wimbledon victory in 2012.

ESPN reportedly agreed to pay the USTA $770 million beginning in 2015 for 11 years of unique US Open broadcast rights. CBS had beforehand held the rights for 45 years.

All viewership knowledge is from Nielsen and Adobe Analytics, and different metrics through the TV networks, Nielsen, Sports Media Watch, ShowBuzz Daily and the leagues. All instances Eastern except in any other case famous.

(Top picture: Robin Alam / Icon Sportswire through Getty Images)

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