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34 of America’s 35 most-watched fall TV shows were NFL games

Jason Witten, Tracy Porter AP

The NFL sent out a press release on Wednesday to brag about its TV ratings, and although the NFL doesn’t need any of our help in promoting the fact that its TV ratings are amazing, the numbers are worth pointing out anyway.

According to the NFL, the average game got 17.6 million viewers, and 205 million Americans watched at least one NFL game. That represents 70 percent of the potential TV viewers in America, which completely dwarfs the kind of viewership that any other type of programming gets. (Even though to me it’s actually a little surprising that 30 percent of people with a TV never watched a single game last season.)

Perhaps most impressive of all is that 34 of the 35 most-watched fall TV shows in America were NFL games. The only non-NFL show that made the Top 35 was NBC’s coverage of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which checked in at No. 22.

America’s most-watched TV show of the fall television season was the Thanksgiving game between the Raiders and Cowboys, which drew 31.7 million viewers. That was followed by the Week One Packers-49ers game, which got 28.5 million viewers, the Packers-Lions Thanksgiving game with 28.3 million viewers, the Broncos-Cowboys shootout with 28.3 million viewers, the December 1 Broncos-Chiefs battle with 28.1 million viewers, the November 24 Cowboys-Giants game with 27.9 million viewers, the December 15 Packers-Cowboys game with 27.8 million viewers, the December 8 Seahawks-49ers game with 27.6 million viewers, the season-ending Eagles-Cowboys game with 27.4 million viewers and the September Eagles-Broncos game with 27.0 million viewers.

And that’s just for the regular season. Already we’ve seen playoff games with even higher viewership totals. And playoff viewing numbers only go up as the postseason goes on, culminating with the Super Bowl, which is America’s most-watched show every year, and this year may turn out to be the most-watched show in American television history.

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49 Responses to “34 of America’s 35 most-watched fall TV shows were NFL games”
  1. jhein23 says: Jan 8, 2014 3:54 PM

    Man the Packers are on a bunch of those most watched games, where are the Vikings?

  2. buckybadger says: Jan 8, 2014 3:55 PM

    But your friends over at Hardball had an article about how the sport was declining?

  3. dtownsportslions says: Jan 8, 2014 3:57 PM

    If you complain about the fines and the refs and the stupid rules in the NFL today.

    This is why the NFL will keep on chugging. They don’t care about true football fans as long as they keep rolling in the dough.

  4. thestrategyexpert says: Jan 8, 2014 3:58 PM

    These numbers are great. If they can get this without all of the things they should and could and might eventually improve in the future, then more money for all that are in the biz. Go get it! Just need to get a committee to approve another committee’s consensus viewpoint.

  5. nflfan4now says: Jan 8, 2014 3:59 PM

    So regular TV (without these great ratings) don’t have 60,000 seat audiences that have to filled to be broadcast, yet they still make money………

  6. lerch77 says: Jan 8, 2014 4:00 PM

    No surprise here. I basically stopped watching TV years ago, the only thing I watch on TV nowadays is NFL and college football…

  7. blackandbluedivision says: Jan 8, 2014 4:00 PM

    For those who question if the Cowgirls are still America’s team…there’s your answer.

  8. vontazemebro says: Jan 8, 2014 4:01 PM

    Hey, as long as unsuspecting rubes buy Silverado’s and Coor’s I get the NFL for free. Now if only the networks presented the game without the WWF buffoonery.

  9. meatcarroll says: Jan 8, 2014 4:02 PM

    Viewership will only increase with the size of the population. Which is why it’s BS whenever someone tells you the NFL must promote cartoon offensive numbers because it gets people watching. People are going to watch the NFL regardless. Bring back real defense!

  10. akboot says: Jan 8, 2014 4:03 PM

    jhein23 says:
    Jan 8, 2014 3:54 PM

    Man the Packers are on a bunch of those most watched games, where are the Vikings?

    As a famous person once said, those Vikings are living rent free in packer fans heads.
    A lot to that as much as they mention our team in every story, regardless of the headline. LOL

  11. ratsfoiledagain says: Jan 8, 2014 4:04 PM

    So what you’re saying is football is popular?

  12. cwwgk says: Jan 8, 2014 4:05 PM

    But I thought Goodell was ruining the NFL?

  13. blackbug99 says: Jan 8, 2014 4:05 PM

    All based on 1500 samples out of how many millions of people? Ratings, just like statistics can be twisted any way you want them. It might be more of an indication that the networks program poorly opposite a game night….They gave up trying to fight it :)!!

  14. baltimoresnativeson says: Jan 8, 2014 4:06 PM

    Safe to say the country is filled with Cowboys, Packers, and Peyton Manning fans.

    No wonder everyone hates when the Ravens win Superbowls, they must bore the country to death with their style of play. Oh well, screw you guys.

  15. ajgreenhof says: Jan 8, 2014 4:08 PM

    The only time I watch TV is when Football is on.

  16. richiebburg says: Jan 8, 2014 4:10 PM

    Can’t believe the Broncos-Colts game didn’t make the cut

  17. largent80 says: Jan 8, 2014 4:12 PM

    and we wonder why the league wants to go to a 14-team playoff. These numbers are why Goodell gets what Goodell wants. You may b!tch and moan about what he’s doing to the game you love, but you’re still tuning in anyway, and that’s all he and the owners really care about. That, and avoiding local blackouts.

  18. thegreatgabbert says: Jan 8, 2014 4:12 PM

    Respondents under 21 had only one question, “What is television?”.

  19. valhallarising says: Jan 8, 2014 4:12 PM

    jhein23 says: Jan 8, 2014 3:54 PM

    “Man the Packers are on a bunch of those most watched games, where are the Vikings?”

    Although I won’t disagree that the Packers were clearly the better team this past season (and many other seasons, duly noted), I’m quite sure that playing on Thanksgiving helped the viewer totals for one of the games, and I’m also sure that playing the Cowboys factored in to one of the other games views (don’t even think of disagreeing, Cowboys vs RAIDERS was the most watched game…). Those reasons (coupled with a loyal fan base obviously) are why the Packers are on the list a “bunch” of times and the Vikings are not.

  20. phinagain says: Jan 8, 2014 4:14 PM

    Sports always draw big numbers, and none are bigger than the NFL (in the US).

    This trend is not going to change anytime soon, but the NFL cities need to plan for smaller stadia. Better HDTV and the astronomical costs of attending the game live, combined with a rapidly shrinking middle class (the people generating those TV numbers) should start pushing stadium size back down.

    Now if they could only do something improve the quality of the broadcasters. Looking in your direction, Gruden…

  21. bleedburgandyandgold says: Jan 8, 2014 4:18 PM

    So much for the article in the NBC pro baseball section saying football is dieing huh lol

  22. blu4l1fe says: Jan 8, 2014 4:18 PM

    Just a real football fan like others that have already posted. I even turn and watch games of teams that I really don’t care for. Now if 34 out of 35 does not say “must-watch-TV”, I don’t really know what does.

    It’s just another reason for the owners and the NFL commissioner not to implement any changes to make the game better (hint, hint: RETRAIN THEM REFS or GET NEW ONES!!!, or have better replay processes), in their (totally NON) humble opinion, there’s nothing wrong with the league.

    Wow, even the Giants-Cowboys game made it to the list.

  23. RavenzGunnerz says: Jan 8, 2014 4:19 PM

    So, Roger Goodell now has greenlight to introduce the extra playoffs games?

  24. bobman2 says: Jan 8, 2014 4:19 PM

    Wow, glad to see others who don’t watch TV… except for football. (Ok, the Olympics, too) When my oldest was four, he referred to the TV as “the football box.” My kids go to school and have no idea what the other kids are talking about half the time. Of course I’d like to upgrade my circa 1996 TV, but it’s hard to justify.

  25. justintuckrule says: Jan 8, 2014 4:20 PM

    Sad that Americans don’t have a backbone like we used to. Turn off the game for a month and watch how fast defenses and hard hitting returns instead of this video game product that pass off as football.

  26. bert1913 says: Jan 8, 2014 4:22 PM

    Now a word to our sponsors: get ready to pay up the wazoo

  27. jrbdmb says: Jan 8, 2014 4:23 PM

    So if all of the highest rated shows are for the NFL, why does ABC / Disney continue to push its Monday Night games to ESPN and show celebrity dance shows on ABC? Doesn’t really make any sense to me.

  28. phillyeaglefan says: Jan 8, 2014 4:25 PM

    Still getting tired of some of the announcers. I can’t stand joe buck, and I also can’t stand phil simms.

  29. dcpatfan says: Jan 8, 2014 4:26 PM

    enjoy it now NFL brand…Tom Terrific is bout to bow out in 3 years

  30. taintedsaints2009 says: Jan 8, 2014 4:26 PM

    sure, but how are those stadium attendance numbers? NFL has a big problem on their hands that they are not talking about. once people stop wanting to go to the games, they gradually stop watching. Case in point: baseball

  31. bucsducksipa says: Jan 8, 2014 4:35 PM

    Perhaps I’m just getting old and nostalgic, but I’m no purest either, that being said, I’m no particular fan of the product we see now and that’s a combination of a lot of things, from players commitment to team to some of their antics on the field, from tinkering with rules of what constitutes a catch, to calls on the field and from the replay booth. MLB’s rule 6.10 the DH, has been in effect since 1973. From Pete Rose to Alex Rodriguez, MLB seems to get by alright in spite of itself. I see no reason the juggernaut that is the NFL won’t plod on for the foreseeable future at the very least. Just because it does don’t make it right though.

  32. The League's Crusade Against The Steelers Continues says: Jan 8, 2014 4:35 PM

    The other one was a Steelers special. You have got to love our fans.

  33. fordmandalay says: Jan 8, 2014 4:40 PM

    So when will a baseball blogger post another story about the demise of the NFL?

  34. tundratommy says: Jan 8, 2014 4:40 PM

    valhallarising says: Jan 8, 2014 4:12 PM

    jhein23 says: Jan 8, 2014 3:54 PM

    “Man the Packers are on a bunch of those most watched games, where are the Vikings?”

    Although I won’t disagree that the Packers were clearly the better team this past season (and many other seasons, duly noted), I’m quite sure that playing on Thanksgiving helped the viewer totals for one of the games, and I’m also sure that playing the Cowboys factored in to one of the other games views (don’t even think of disagreeing, Cowboys vs RAIDERS was the most watched game…). Those reasons (coupled with a loyal fan base obviously) are why the Packers are on the list a “bunch” of times and the Vikings are not.

    The Vikings played the Cowboys this year too, so the part of your statement suggesting that the Packers made the list because it was the Cowboys that they were playing is faulty.

  35. learysdisciples says: Jan 8, 2014 4:42 PM

    Al and cris are the best on TV!

  36. britishteeth says: Jan 8, 2014 4:43 PM

    Hmmm, these ratings obviously do not take into account every episode of Say Yes To The Dress.

  37. thestrategyexpert says: Jan 8, 2014 4:44 PM

    Well said old-timer. Nobody loves football more than me, yet the product to me is shoddy and it is embarrassing and it is NOT professional. Some people have a hard time separating commingling issues in order to see the big picture. You are wise to be able to cut through some of the smoke and mirrors that others use to sell the status quo, good for you. Maybe you have a future in the football industry, there’s a lot of teams that need that kind of analytical thinking. Not a lot of that happening on the sidelines or the front offices or the league office.

  38. micknangold says: Jan 8, 2014 4:45 PM

    According to your Redskins number-fudging, that 30 percent of people not watching must represent the belief that the NFL is going out of business soon.

  39. gmsalpha says: Jan 8, 2014 4:50 PM

    I don’t have a tv, but thankfully I get to watch the NBC and ESPN games, along with FOX and CBS playoff games online. And I’ve really enjoyed GameRewind.

    I think the attendance issue will be addressed. Lower prices for one. I know it’s not easy for them to do, but prices will come down. Nobody wants to see blue tarps.

    Put wifi and better concessions/amenities in all you want, but if it’s unaffordable to the average fan, something will have to give.

    They’re a smart bunch. It’ll happen.

  40. jaweaver14 says: Jan 8, 2014 4:51 PM

    jrbdmb: I can tell you why. Because that way some people that may not have the package that includes ESPN will upgrade so that they can watch football. Now they’re getting advertising money on ESPN and growing their number of subscribers at the same time. That’s a pretty darn good business strategy with numbers like this. Some times you just have to peel back the layers to see it….make sense now?

    jrbdmb says:
    Jan 8, 2014 4:23 PM
    So if all of the highest rated shows are for the NFL, why does ABC / Disney continue to push its Monday Night games to ESPN and show celebrity dance shows on ABC? Doesn’t really make any sense to me.

    2 0

  41. bennyb82 says: Jan 8, 2014 4:52 PM

    The number of viewers is probably less relevant than the Nielsen rating. Obviously the viewership will go up as the population increases. I bet next years games will have even more viewers as will the year after that. The percentages would tell you more…like that there is nothing good on tv anymore.

  42. dalcow4 says: Jan 8, 2014 4:54 PM

    Yet Craig Calcaterra assures us that football is dying…

  43. jackybadass says: Jan 8, 2014 4:56 PM

    Great now add more teams to playoffs ! More games the better. It will be crazy to see a 7-9 team win it all

  44. lerch77 says: Jan 8, 2014 4:58 PM

    jrbdmb says: Jan 8, 2014 4:23 PM

    So if all of the highest rated shows are for the NFL, why does ABC / Disney continue to push its Monday Night games to ESPN and show celebrity dance shows on ABC? Doesn’t really make any sense to me.

    That’s also why I despise the NCAA for moving all of their high profile games and bowl games to ESPN/cableTV.

    It’s all about $$$

  45. valhallarising says: Jan 8, 2014 4:59 PM

    tundratommy says: Jan 8, 2014 4:40 PM

    “The Vikings played the Cowboys this year too, so the part of your statement suggesting that the Packers made the list because it was the Cowboys that they were playing is faulty.”

    The Cowboys actually played 16 games this season, five of which appear on this top ten this. One of those 16 Cowboys games did happen to be against the Vikings, but evidently did no make the top 10 list. I’m willing to bet that it was one of the most watched Vikings games of the season though.

    The Cowboys making up five of the top 10 most watched games tells me that the Cowboys are a popular team (who knew…?). So the Cowboys popularity, coupled with the Packers fan base (as mentioned in my original post) would be large reasons why this game is in the top 10.

  46. snitor says: Jan 8, 2014 4:59 PM

    “buckybadger says:
    Jan 8, 2014 3:55 PM
    But your friends over at Hardball had an article about how the sport was declining?”

    “dalcow4 says:
    Jan 8, 2014 4:54 PM
    Yet Craig Calcaterra assures us that football is dying…”

    Come on guys! It had nothing to do with football dying, it was just to point out that is just as absurd to say that baseball is dying.

    NFL is bigger and stronger? No doubt. Baseball was more important in the 60’s? No doubt. But no one would give a mlb franchise away and the baseball revenues are going up. He was just mocking those “baseball is dying” articles.

  47. mjrinfla says: Jan 8, 2014 5:00 PM

    jrbdmb says:
    Jan 8, 2014 4:23 PM

    So if all of the highest rated shows are for the NFL, why does ABC / Disney continue to push its Monday Night games to ESPN and show celebrity dance shows on ABC? Doesn’t really make any sense to me.
    _______________

    That is because ABC/Disney wants to drive people away from basic (and free with an antenna), over-the-air TV and force us to pay for ESPN. An article I found states that ESPN gets $5.06/month as an “affiliate fee” from the cable companies for EACH customer who signs up for ESPN. This July article estimated 100 million ESPN subscribers x $5.06 per month x 12 months. That is a bit over $6 billion. So they offer the highest-rated program they have on a platform that will generate the largest income stream. On top of those billions, ABC then gets to charge a nice advertising fee for their programming during ESPN’s broadcast. I learned a long time ago to follow the money trail…

  48. fmlizard says: Jan 8, 2014 5:20 PM

    I’m surprised the kings of overexposure (some deservedly so) in New England didn’t make even one of the top games.

  49. toolfan74 says: Jan 8, 2014 6:15 PM

    Everybody knows The Walking Dead is the best show in the world!

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