The return of the NFL preseason drew a big audience on Thursday night.
The Hall of Fame Game, the NFL’s first preseason game of 2021 after the entire preseason was canceled in 2020, drew 7.326 million viewers, FOX announced.
That’s an outstanding number for a preseason game. It’s a 37 percent increase over the last Hall of Fame Game, in 2019, which drew 5.343 million viewers, and it marks the most-watched preseason game in the NFL in four years.
The two teams participating in last night’s game, the Cowboys and Steelers, have two of the league’s largest fan bases, which surely helped. This year’s extra-large Hall of Fame enshrinement class, which features popular players like Peyton Manning and Charles Woodson, also probably helped draw attention to this year’s Hall of Fame festivities.
The big number is a good sign for the NFL, which is continuing to generate big audiences at a time when network television viewership has declined significantly.