40 of 50 most-watched sporting events in 2018 were NFL games

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The NFL dominated the American sports television landscape in 2018.

Of the 50 most-watched sporting events in 2018, 40 were NFL games, according to Sports Media Watch.

That includes the seven most-watched events of the year: The Super Bowl, the two conference championship games, two divisional playoff games, a wild card game and the annual Thanksgiving game in Dallas. No. 8 was the college football national championship game, No. 9 was the Winter Olympics opening ceremony and No. 10 was another NFL divisional playoff game.

To give an indication of the gap between the NFL and the other major sporting events, the 40th most-watched NFL game, the Rams-Bears Sunday night game, had 19.39 million viewers. The most-watched NBA game, Game 2 of the NBA Finals, had 18.47 million viewers. The most-watched baseball game, Game 5 of the World Series, had 17.64 million viewers. (Football also easily beats basketball on the college level; the college basketball national championship game had 15.97 million viewers, while there were six college football games that had more than 16 million viewers.)

All 50 of the most-watched events were football games or Olympics broadcasts.

45 responses to “40 of 50 most-watched sporting events in 2018 were NFL games

  1. How many of the 50 were Cowboys games… 16 LOL. This, folks, is why the Cowboys are America’s Team.

  2. It seemed to me that this year, generally speaking, the games were much more competitive than last year, many highly entertaining games that I watched that didn’t involve my team. There were a LOT of dog games last year. Look at the records of teams this year; the difference between the best and the worst was less it has been for the last few years. The Thursday night games, utterly horrific in the past, were actually entertaining this year (that doesn’t mean I advocate keeping them, though). Pete Rozelle and his parity principle live on!!!!

  3. What! This can’t possibly be. There were thousands (consequently millions) on this site alone that said they were NEVER going to watch an NFL game again.

  4. Ten of the top 40 watched sporting events were Patriots games, including the two most watched games. Conventional wisdom, at least on PFT, that the Patriots winning is not good for NFL ratings has clearly been proven to be wishful thinking by fans from teams that don’t measure up. Success should be rewarded, not mediocrity.

  5. And ignorant fans wondered why Goodell earns $40m a year… This is what owners care about and exactly why he gets paid. Past commissioners like Tagliabue or Rozelle couldn’t generate this level of revenue like Goodell has, regardless of how popular football was.

  6. It was a false narrative for a couple years that the NFL was trending down. Nothing has really changed. The ratings are up a bit, but they were never dowm that much. It is just that the people that like the NFL is doomed narrative have been exposed as the irrelevant fools they are.

  7. To the Cowboys fan above, only two of the Cowboys games were in the top 20, the 7th and 16th most watched. One of those, the 7th, was on Thanksgiving. They don’t earn a spot on Thanksgiving, it is given to them. The 16th game was the game against the Eagles who were the real marquee attraction.

  8. allsyntax says:
    January 3, 2019 at 9:00 am
    How many of the 50 were Cowboys games… 16 LOL. This, folks, is why the Cowboys are America’s Team.
    —–

    How many of those were dallas playoff games? 0.

  9. allsyntax says:
    January 3, 2019 at 9:00 am
    How many of the 50 were Cowboys games… 16 LOL. This, folks, is why the Cowboys are America’s Team.
    ________________________________________

    Sorry buddy, only 7. New England must be America’s teams since they had the most at 9…

  10. @battmanri

    Hockey is way down there…I think the most watched hockey game EVER is about 8million

  11. allsyntax says:
    January 3, 2019 at 9:00 am
    How many of the 50 were Cowboys games… 16 LOL. This, folks, is why the Cowboys are America’s Team.

    ———————-
    How so? I only counted 8. I even noticed other teams mentioned more than the Cowboys in that list.

  12. gorilladunk says:
    January 3, 2019 at 9:06 am
    What! This can’t possibly be. There were thousands (consequently millions) on this site alone that said they were NEVER going to watch an NFL game again.
    ——————————
    The NFL responded to those boycotts by addressing what those folks were being turned off by, and then once they had gotten their wishes honored the boycott ended.

  13. What happened? All you people who said that you weren’t going to watch the NFL anymore because of the “kneelers”?

    NFL ratings are up by 5% this year, too.

    lol

  14. The main reason is that football is on Sundays mostly, when most people aren’t working. Once a week to get together with friends and watch the game(s). And football moves at a great pace for watching with friends and talking about the action in between plays. Basketball moves too quickly for that, and baseball too slowly. And again, too many games, scattered all over the calendar.

    If you add up the totals though, I’m sure the NFL is a very distant 3rd. 16 games can’t compete with 82 or 162.

  15. How many of those were dallas playoff games?

    I’m sure you’ll be tuned-in on Saturday. The Cowboys have won the division in two of the past 3 seasons. Playoffs for anyone is a one-and-done scenario. All you can ask for is a ticket to the dance. They have the youngest roster in the league. The Star is up, boys.

  16. cantescapekarma says:
    January 3, 2019 at 9:47 am
    What happened? All you people who said that you weren’t going to watch the NFL anymore because of the “kneelers”?

    NFL ratings are up by 5% this year, too.
    ————
    The average game in 2018 drew 15.8 million viewers as compared with 14.9 million in 2017. That number was 16.5 million for the 2016 season and 17.9 million in 2015.

    It’s easy to show an increase after such a precipitous drop last year. Still down 13% from 2015 when the protests began.

  17. cantescapekarma says:
    January 3, 2019 at 9:47 am
    What happened? All you people who said that you weren’t going to watch the NFL anymore because of the “kneelers”?

    NFL ratings are up by 5% this year, too.

    lol
    ———————
    You do realized that when the kneeling stopped being shown the viewers returned? You seem to be jeering at them but Im not sure you realize the way things unfolded does not support the point you were hoping it would.

  18. “The NFL responded to those boycotts by addressing the concerns of what those folks were turned off by, and once they had gotten their wishes honored the boycott ended”.
    __________

    Nice job of revisionist history. You and the other anthem nuts were claiming that millions of people had quit watching and would never return, and that NFL viewership was in an unending freefall. Now your ludicrous predictions have been proven to be untrue, and you are scrambling for any reason to explain why you were not wrong.

  19. cantescapekarma says:
    January 3, 2019 at 9:47 am
    What happened? All you people who said that you weren’t going to watch the NFL anymore because of the “kneelers”?

    NFL ratings are up by 5% this year, too.

    lol
    ++++++++++++++++
    I thought you said they were down due to the amount of people streaming the last couple years right?

  20. What happened? All you people who said that you weren’t going to watch the NFL anymore because of the “kneelers”?

    NFL ratings are up by 5% this year, too.

    lol
    ———————-
    Viewers came back because the protests shrunk or at least people stopped caring. Robert Quinn was crying about how his protests weren’t being covered. We finally got back to just playing football. This is why we came back. Common sense really.

  21. LOL at all the posters here that were going off on how the social protests were killing the NFL last year and are now scrambling to explain why they and everyone else are still watching.

    Lol at the claim that the “kneeling as stopped”. It still happens fairly often and the nfl hasn’t done a thing about it except to buy players off so not as many do it. Does it happen less after 2 years of it first happening? Like everything else, of course. The “outrage” of the posters here that said they would never watch another NFL game (and never stopped) had nothing to do with it and kneeling had nothing to do with ratings.

    The nfl has become so popular that it reached a saturation point and ratings suffered a decline last year. The level of popularity it had reached just wasn’t sustainable, just like players couldn’t have been expected to continue kneeling in the same numbers.

    The nfl ratings will continue to go up and down in the future. It will also continue to be the most popular television programming in the US and more popular than all the other major sports combined.

  22. “You do realized that when the kneeling stopped being shown the viewers returned?”

    So let’s get this straight. It was not the actual kneeling that bothered you people, it was just the fact that it was shown on TV.

  23. Coffeehog says:
    January 3, 2019 at 9:39 am
    gorilladunk says:
    January 3, 2019 at 9:06 am
    What! This can’t possibly be. There were thousands (consequently millions) on this site alone that said they were NEVER going to watch an NFL game again.
    ——————————
    The NFL responded to those boycotts by addressing what those folks were being turned off by, and then once they had gotten their wishes honored the boycott ended.

    ——

    The problem with that theory is that in 2017 when the protests were happening, the NFL still had 37 of the top 50.

  24. This isn’t hard to do when they’re competing against scrub NBA games. I don’t care how many people watched the NBA Finals. Basketball hasn’t been the same in years. Soccer is the most watched sport in the world. Needless to say, Americans prefer NFL games. The World Series was interesting this year but even then, I believe the NFL games still had higher ratings.

  25. Dan Sardo says:
    January 3, 2019 at 11:19 am

    LOL at all the posters here that were going off on how the social protests were killing the NFL last year

    Lol at the claim that the “kneeling as stopped”. It still happens fairly often and the nfl hasn’t done a thing about it except to buy players off so not as many do it.

    __________________________________________________________

    Last time I checked, I don’t see any articles on ESPN, Bleacher Report, NFL, or ProFootballTalk about which player kneeled in which game during the national anthem. They didn’t show any players kneeling during any national anthem on t.v. this season. Money talks. If anything, the only thing I found on the Internet was a Yahoo article about a Niners’ cheerleader kneeling. Imagine that? Dolphins’ Robert Quinn even complained about how there’s not enough media coverage on their little “life is just so hard” protests. Will they take a knee for all the deaths in St. Louis, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, and other major cities caused by you know who? Nope.

  26. tigerlilac says:
    January 3, 2019 at 9:09 am
    Ten of the top 40 watched sporting events were Patriots games, including the two most watched games. Conventional wisdom, at least on PFT, that the Patriots winning is not good for NFL ratings has clearly been proven to be wishful thinking by fans from teams that don’t measure up. Success should be rewarded, not mediocrity.

    —–

    but that’s probably because Patriot Success inspires a LOT of hope of them losing, especially in big games, which sparks mass viewership because they want to see the Pats lose.

    And more often than not they end up hating the results.

  27. “You do realized that when the kneeling stopped being shown the viewers returned?”

    —-

    the viewers that said they were done, will never watch another game again? those viewers?

  28. “Ten of the top 40 watched sporting events were Patriots games, including the two most watched games.”

    It’s no secret that teams that win most of the time get more than their fair share of nationally televised games, therefore giving them more chances for large audiences (depending on who they’re playing and the importance of the game). The first time the Patriots go 3-13, let’s see how many times they’re featured in Prime Time the following season.

  29. “Less kneeling=more viewers.”

    In the alternate, upside-down universe this is true. This one … not so much.

  30. Hate all you want but Dallas Cowboys are the most valuable and popular team in the NFL. With 8 games on the list and the first NFL game to be a non-playoff game. Imagine if we where good?

  31. It was like that last year during the anthem controversy as well. And the year before that. And the one before that. And so on.

  32. tigerlilac says:
    January 3, 2019 at 9:16 am
    To the Cowboys fan above, only two of the Cowboys games were in the top 20, the 7th and 16th most watched. One of those, the 7th, was on Thanksgiving. They don’t earn a spot on Thanksgiving, it is given to them. The 16th game was the game against the Eagles who were the real marquee attraction.

    You are an idiot. Simply put the Cowboys have and always will be the biggest draw in the NFL in viewership and sales. Say what you will but that is the very reason they get so many prime time games even without making the playoffs.

    Same reason they are the most valuable sports franchise in the world. And I am guessing you are a Patriots fan in which case you can feel better about being in 2nd. About 1 billion dollars or around a quarter of the value of the Cowboys.

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