Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday — it doesn’t matter what night — auds are turning out in huge numbers for NFL action.
One night after ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” capped its most-watched season to date with a season high, NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” scored big with its special Tuesday game between the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles. Pushed back a couple of nights due to blizzard conditions in the City of Brotherly Love, the game marked the NFL’s first action on a Tuesday since 1946.
According to Nielsen, the Vikings’ surprise 24-14 victory over the Eagles averaged an 8.1 rating/23 share in adults 18-49 and 23.74 million viewers overall, making it the Peacock’s fifth most-watched “SNF” game this season.
NBC, with one game set to go in its “SNF” package, is on pace to shatter its previous high-water season average since taking over the broadcast primetime package from NBC in the fall of 2006. It is averaging about 22 million viewers, up nearly 15% from last year and more than 25% from two years ago.
While “Sunday Night Football” has soared to become primetime’s No. 1 series in the fourth quarter — in part due to an unprecedent-ed number of games featuring the bigger-market National Football Conference — all of the National Football League’s television partners are enjoying record or above-average numbers this season.
On Monday, ESPN’s season finale of “Monday Night Football” between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints drew a season-best 19.14 million viewers while commanding a dominant 7.1 rating/20 share in adults 18-49. The Saints’ 17-14 victory over the Falcons became the most-watched cable telecast of 2010 and third most-watched cable program of all time.
This is especially impressive since the teams, which play in the same NFC South division, are not among the league’s historically big ratings draws. The game did a 37.2 local household rating in Atlanta — the largest ever for a regular-season game.
For the season, “MNF” averaged 14.7 million viewers, up 2% from last year (14.4 million) and its best since moving from ABC in 2006. It is also the No. 2 primetime series of the fourth quarter in adults 18-49 — topping all entertainment series including the likes of “Modern Family,” “Glee” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”
And last Saturday, a special Christmas night telecast of NFL Network’s “Thursday Night Football” franchise drew a season-high 7.84 million viewers — and that doesn’t include over-the-air stations in the Dallas and Phoenix area that also aired the game due to the cabler’s relatively low clearance levels.
The net’s eight-game, late-season package averaged 5.7 million viewers this year, up from the previous high of 5.5 million set last year.
CBS has also had a very strong season, with the Eye’s regional action last Sunday (highlighted by the Jets-Bears game at 1 p.m. ET) averaging a 15.4 overnight household rating — its best on a singleheader weekend since it reacquired NFL rights in 1998; the previous high of 14.3 was attained twice this season.
And at Fox, last Sunday’s late afternoon game between the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants averaged 24.3 million viewers to rule as the week’s most-watched program — the 16th time in as many weeks that an NFL contest could make the claim.
Looking ahead to primetime postseason NFL action, NBC will air a wild-card game on Jan. 8, while CBS will air the AFC championship game on Jan. 23 and Fox gets its turn at the Super Bowl on Feb. 6.