On the eve of the NFL playoffs, which kick off Saturday, the league released statistics about TV and digital viewership during the regular season, saying viewership is at a three-year high.
The season turned out to have the most tune-in of any since the 2016 campaign, with more than 182 million people sampling a game during the year. Across all networks, an average of 16.7 million viewers watched on linear and digital platforms, an increase of 5% over last year.
Digital viewership across all platforms — the NFL’s own apps and sites, mobile devices and network-affiliated digital outlets –averaged 487,000, a healthy 51% improvement over last year. Drivers of digital consumption included Amazon Prime Video carrying Thursday Night Football, the second year of Verizon’s full-season streaming availability, and ongoing migration toward streaming.
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According to the league, the five top draws of the season were Buffalo at Dallas (Week 13, CBS) at 32.6 million viewers; Dallas at New England (Week 12, Fox), 29.9 million; Kansas City at New England (Week 14, CBS), 28.3 million; Chicago at Detroit (Week 13, Fox); and Dallas at Philadelphia (Week 16, Fox), 25.7 million.
Headwinds from recent season — including the anthem kneeling controversy, spotty quality of games in prominent national slots and angst about concussions — have all eased this season. It also hasn’t hurt that the year has featured a new breakout team and star — Lamar Jackson’s top-seeded Baltimore Ravens — and a mix of both a handful of dominant teams and a large number of teams with a chance to make the playoffs.
Fox said this week that it recorded a 7% increase compared with 2018, with an average audience of 19.3 million viewers. America’s Game of the Week, generally an NFC matchup contested in the late afternoon on the East Coast, saw its average reach 24.4 million viewers. The game has been the top draw in all of television for 11 straight seasons.
NBC also went out on a high note, with Sunday Night Football on pace for its ninth straight year as the top primetime program on TV. Last Sunday’s win by the San Francisco 49ers over the Seattle Seahawks averaged 23.3 million viewers, most ever by two West Coast teams on Sunday night, the network said.
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