MNF Leads as NFL TV Ratings Rise 10%

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An extra week of games, close finishes and a year out of election helped accelerate the NFL to its highest attendance in the regular season in six years.

The 272 regular season matches had an average of 17.1 million viewers across TV and digital platforms, an increase of 10% over 2020 and is the league’s highest average since 2015.

ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” saw the biggest increase as its 19-game package increased 16% over last year, averaging 14.18 million. It is the network’s best regular viewership since 2010 and third best since 2006, when the package mainly moved to cable from ABC.

It was expected that the NFL’s total TV audience would increase after the 2020 season was played in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, with empty stadiums with a strange viewing dynamic and many people’s viewing habits changing. The first half of that season also took place in the middle of a presidential campaign where many watched cable news channels.

This was also the first season in which the league played 17 games in the regular season. Despite the extra play, there were not many blowouts. According to the league, 64% of all matches this season were within a score in the fourth quarter.

NFL games ranked in the top 16 and 91 of the 100 best TV shows during the season, according to Nielsen. The Dallas Cowboys were involved in five of the 10 most-watched games, including the Week 12 Thanksgiving Day game with the Las Vegas Raiders, which averaged 40.8 million viewers. It was the most watched regular season game on any network for 31 years and one of only two since 1988 with an average of at least 40 million.

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