Ratings Roundup: Historic Monday Night Football Matchup Dazzles 16.7 Million Viewers, ESPN’s Biggest Audience in Two Years

Ratings roundup is a rundown of rating news from the past week and is derived from press releases and reports around the industry. In this week’s edition, a potential Super Bowl pairing registered 16.7 million viewers, a near-miss upset by Maryland over Ohio State leads college football ratings, Notre Dame on NBC finished its most successful season since 2012, the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship on NBC brought in the most viewers in four months, and Fox Sports stole the viewership show this fall.

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Rams Shootout Win Over Chiefs Garner Most-Watched MNF Game Since 2016
A thrilling Los Angeles Rams’ 54-51 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football averaged 16.7 million viewers across ESPN, ESPNEWS, and ESPN Deportes, according to Nielsen. It is the largest MNF audience since December 2016 (18.6 million, Lions-Cowboys) and ESPN’s most-viewed telecast since the College Football Playoff National Championship Game on January 8.

Viewership for Chiefs-Rams is up 53% vs. last year’s Atlanta-Seattle game in week 11, which averaged 10.9 million viewers across the ESPN networks.

The MNF game was the most-watched telecast of the night among households, viewers and all key male and adult demos (18-34, 18-49, 25-54), and ESPN won the night again among all networks, broadcast or cable, in those same categories. Through 11 weeks of the NFL season (12 games), MNF has helped ESPN win the night all 11 Mondays.

Through 12 games, Monday Night Football is averaging 11.9 million viewers, a 9% increase year-over-year (vs. 10.9 million) – and up 10% from last year’s full-season average (10.8 million).

On ESPN, Chiefs-Rams averaged a 9.7 US household rating and 16.6 million viewers — an increase of 54% compared to 10.8 million viewers in week 11 last year. The telecast peaked on the final drive from 11:45 p.m. – 12 a.m. ET as Patrick Mahomes attempted to lead the Chiefs down the field with an 11.1 US household rating and 18.9 million viewers. On ESPN Deportes and ESPNEWS (Spanish-language simulcast), Chiefs-Rams averaged an additional 173,000 viewers, the highest audience on ESPN Deportes so far this season.

Monday night’s game was the first MNF game played in Los Angeles in 33 years (October 28, 1985). The Chiefs and Rams combined for 105 points, the highest scoring game in MNF’s 49-year history.

In local markets, Kansas City delivered a 16.6 rating on ESPN and a 36.2 rating on KMBC-ABC, for a combined 52.8 rating in the market. In Los Angeles, the game delivered a 10.4 rating on ESPN – the highest rating in the market since 2016 – and a 9.2 on KABC-ABC, for a combined 19.6 rating in the market. The top 10 metered markets (not including those of the competing teams): New Orleans (21.4), San Diego (16.2), Denver (15.7), Seattle-Tacoma (15.5), Phoenix (14.4), Albuquerque-Santa Fe (14.3), Richmond, Va. (14.0), Minneapolis-St. Paul (13.8), Washington, D.C. (13.8), and Las Vegas (13.7)…

Thursday Night Football,  featuring the Seattle Seahawks’ 27-24 win over the Green Bay Packers in Week 11, was seen by an average audience of 17.5 million viewers across all platforms, including Fox, NFL Network, Fox Deportes, NFL digital, Fox Sports digital, Amazon, and Yahoo Sports – up +27% versus last year’s Week 11 Thursday Night Football matchup between the Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers, and up +23% versus the 2017 10-game Thursday Night Football average (TV + digital).

The Nielsen-measured audience was 16.9 million viewers – up +25% versus the 2017 Week 11 Thursday Night Football game (13.5 million) and up +22% versus the 2017 10-game Thursday Night Football average on CBS/NBC and NFL Network (13.8 million). Additionally, Packers-Seahawks averaged a 10.0 HH rating – up +23% versus last year’s Titans-Steelers matchup (8.2 HH rating) and +20% versus the 2017 10-game Thursday Night Football average (8.4 HH rating).

Digital streaming across Amazon Prime Video, Twitch, NFL digital platforms, Fox Sports digital platforms, and Yahoo Sports produced an average minute audience of 862K – an increase of +111% vs. last year’s Week 11 Thursday Night Football matchup between the Titans and Steelers (409K) and +96% vs. the 2017 10-game average (439K).

Amazon Prime Video and Twitch reached a total of 2.4 million combined viewers worldwide for the Fox NFL Thursday pregame show and the Packers-Seahawks game. For the Packers-Seahawks game alone, 2.1 million worldwide viewers initiated a stream on Prime Video or Twitch. The average worldwide audience watching Thursday Night Football for at least 30 seconds on Prime Video or Twitch was 608K.

The NFL continues to produce strong viewership numbers this season with games accounting for 29 of the top 30 shows on television since kickoff week…

The NFL on CBS  Week 11 NFL single header, featuring either Steelers-Jaguars or Broncos-Chargers in 78% of markets, had an 8.1 rating and 13.8 million viewers — down 14% in ratings and 12% in viewership from last year (ft. Washington-New Orleans: 9.4, 15.7M) and down 4% and 3% respectively from 2016 (ft. Bears-Giants: 8.4, 14.3M), according to SportsMediaWatch. It was the lowest rated Week 11 single header since at least 2000 and the least-watched since 2003 (13.1M). Of the 11 single header windows this season, it was just the third to hit a multi-year low in ratings or viewership…

…On Fox, the Eagles-Saints matchup scored a 10.7 rating and 18.4 million viewers, down 2% in ratings and 3% in viewership from last year (mostly Patriots-Raiders: 10.9, 19.0M) and down 18% and 21% respectively from 2016 (mostly Eagles-Seahawks 13.6, 24.4M). The Saints’ blowout win was the lowest rated Week 11 national window since at least 2000 and the least-watched since 2002 (17.0M). It also delivered the second-lowest rating and viewership for the national window this season, ahead of Week 6 on CBS (mostly Jaguars-Cowboys: 10.2, 17.6M) (SMW)…

…Vikings-Bears on NBC’s Sunday Night Football scored a 10.7 rating and 18.8 million viewers, down 10% in ratings and 11% in viewership from Cowboys-Eagles last year (11.9, 21.1M). Compared to 2016 (Green Bay-Washington), ratings fell a tick (from 10.8) but viewership increased 1% (from 18.7M) (SMW).

Ohio State Narrowly Defeats Maryland in College Football’s Most-Watched Game
ABC’s Ohio State at Maryland telecast (noon ET) was the most-viewed college football game of the week, drawing a total live audience of 5,685,000 viewers, spiking at more than nine million viewers for approximately 40 minutes while the Buckeyes and Terrapins played into the fourth quarter and overtime (3:30-4:08 p.m.) The game’s highest audience was reached during the overtime period, as an average of 9.2 million viewers tuned in (4-4:08 p.m.). The Big Ten game audience is among just the few college football games this season to have a peak audience surpass the nine million-viewer threshold.

The audience of 5.7 million viewers results in the most-watched noon ET game on ESPN/ABC since November 2016. ABC’s audience was up 65% from the same game window last season (Virginia at Miami). The game was the most-viewed telecast of the day -—sports and non-sports — among males 18-34, 18-49, 25-54 and person 18-34. The significant audience was 122% better than the broadcast competition airing college football at the same time. The game ranks among the most-watched of the season. Now, season to date, ABC/ESPN have aired seven of the 13 most-watched games across all networks.

ABC’s West Virginia at Oklahoma State game (3:30 p.m.) delivered a total live audience of 3,948,000 viewers, college football’s second most-watched game of the day across all networks, providing ABC a 19% increase in audience from the comparable window last season (Illinois at Ohio State).

For ABC, the Mountaineers-Cowboys game ranks as ABC’s most-viewed late afternoon window since the opening week of the season and topped the broadcast competition in the same window by 97%, 93%, and 36%, respectively.

ABC/ESPN continued its season-long prime-time success this week, as ABC’s Saturday Night Football delivered the most-watched game of the night when Cincinnati at UCF (8 p.m.) earned a total live audience of 3,124,000 viewers. The airing of the American Athletic game marks the 10th time this season ESPN/ABC has aired the most-watched primetime game in the sport.

The AAC showdown also led ABC to ‘win the night’ among all key male and adult demos (males 18-34, 18-49, 25-54, and persons 18-34, 18-49, 25-54). The prime-time game bookended a day in Orlando, Fla., which began with College GameDay Built by The Home Depot (9 a.m.- noon) from the UCF campus, which drew 1,904,000 viewers across ESPN and ESPNU while also delivering a significant rating in the Knights’ home market.

ESPN’s prime-time telecast of Duke at Clemson (7 p.m.) drew a Nielsen total live audience of 2,452,000 viewers, the most-watched cable telecast of the week. Now, 12 weeks into the season, ESPN has televised the most-watched cable game in each week of the season…

Notre Dame on NBC Sports Finishes 2018 Season as the Most-Viewed in Six Years
NBC Sports’ presentation of the 2018 Notre Dame Football on NBC season was the network’s most-watched season in six years, according to data provided by The Nielsen Company and Adobe Analytics.

For seven games, the 2018 Notre Dame Football on NBC season averaged a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 3.491 million viewers, up 40% vs. seven games for NBC/NBCSN in 2017 (2.495 million), and marks the best viewership since the 2012 season (4.367 million), when Notre Dame reached the National Championship Game.

NBC Sports kicked off the 2018 college football season with the most-watched Notre Dame Football on NBC broadcast in 13 years, when the Fighting Irish defeated the Michigan Wolverines on the Saturday night of Labor Day weekend, 24-17, to produce a TAD of 7.195 million viewers.

Overall, NBC Sports saw marked viewership gains across both its primetime (3 games) and afternoon (4 games) coverage in 2018. NBC Sports’ 2018 Notre Dame primetime coverage produced a TAD of 4.674 million viewers, up 30% vs. 2017 (3.609 million; 2 games), while its 2018 Notre Dame afternoon coverage produced a TAD of 2.586 million viewers, up 28% vs. 2017 (2.025 million; 5 games).

Locally, Indianapolis led all metered markets with a 7.8 HH rating across NBC Sports’ seven Notre Dame Football on NBC telecasts. Following are the Top 10 markets from the 2018 season.

The top 10 markets were: Indianapolis 7.8, Columbus 5.0, Ft. Myers 4.5, Dayton 4.4, Cincinnati 3.9, Detroit 3.8, Pittsburgh 3.8, Chicago 3.7, and West Palm Beach/Buffalo/Norfolk 3.4,

Digitally, 2018 marked NBC Sports’ most-streamed Notre Dame season on record in live minutes (53.4 million) and uniques (768K), up 54% and 52%, respectively, vs. the 2017 season (34.7 million; 504K uniques).

Joey Logano Lifts Championship Trophy in Front of Four Million Viewers
Highlighted by a thrilling showdown between NASCAR’s Championship Four drivers, in which Joey Logano and the No. 22 Team Penske Ford held off Martin Truex Jr. to take the checkered flag and win the 2018 season title, NBC Sports coverage of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship posted a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of more than 4 million viewers across NBC, NBCSN, and digital platforms, according to official national data released by Nielsen, and digital data from Adobe Analytics. Sunday’s championship race was the most-watched NASCAR race in more than four months, since the on-air NASCAR debut of Dale Earnhardt Jr. at NBC’s Daytona race in July.

NBC Sports’ TAD of 4.2 million viewers for Sunday’s race marks the fourth consecutive season NBC Sports Group has topped more than 4 million viewers for the NASCAR Championship. Traditional live race coverage was presented on NBC, the NBC Sports App, and NBCSports.com, while NBCSN simulcast the race with hyper-focused “Hot Pass” coverage of the Championship Four drivers. The TAD of 4.2 million viewers for Sunday’s championship race was up 61% vs. NBC Sports Group’s 2018 NASCAR Playoffs average (2.6 million).

Viewership of Sunday’s Cup Series Championship peaked in the final quarter hour of the race with 5.8 million average viewers, the largest peak audience for NASCAR since Fox’s spring Talladega race (4/29/18; 6.3 million), and a 3.4 HH rating. The race delivered a 2.52 HH rating on NBC.

In total, viewership for NBC and NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season (excluding rain impacted Indianapolis) averaged 2.7 million viewers.

Additional 2018 NASCAR on NBC season highlights include:

  • NASCAR Cup Series race telecasts on NBCSN were the most-watched sports event on cable during seven weekends of the NASCAR on NBC season.
  • NBCSN was the most-watched cable network in the time period, during 10 of 13 Cup Series race telecasts this season.
  • Two Cup Series races on NBC averaged more than 4 million viewers (Daytona and Homestead-Miami), and five races averaged more than 3 million viewers (Daytona, Homestead-Miami, Watkins Glen, Charlotte, and Talladega).
  • NBC’s presentation of this year’s NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race from Charlotte, which featured the debut of Charlotte Motor Speedway’s ROVAL course, averaged a TAD of 3.2 million viewers, up 13% vs. 2017, making it the most-watched fall Cup Series race from Charlotte since 2014.
  • NBCSN’s telecast of the 2018 NASCAR on NBC season debut from Chicagoland Speedway averaged a TAD of 2.6 million viewers, up 10% from last year’s race at Chicagoland.

Fox Sports Thrives in Ratings Game in Fall 2018
Fox Sports delivered in live sports event viewing this fall across its NFL, postseason baseball, and college football properties. Beginning with Week 1 of the college football season on Fox, the network has a total of 103 billion minutes-viewed, ranking 1st among sports networks with a staggering +68% advantage over second place.

When combining college football with the NFL, football on Fox amassed a total of 80.7 billion minutes-viewed, a sizable +34% gain over the next nearest competitor in 2018.

In October, when sports fans are glued to television sets across America watching postseason baseball, college football and NFL on Fox, the network owned 60% of the top 20 most-watched events in all of television for the month. With 54.2 billion minutes of live sports event viewing, Fox came out more than double the 2nd best broadcast or cable network for the month of October.

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