Ratings Roundup: Tampa Bay Bucs Defeat at SoFi Stadium Creates Most-Watched NFL Game in Week 3; 2021 WNBA Season Grabs Highest Viewership Since 2008

Ratings roundup is a rundown of recent rating news and is derived from press releases and reports around the industry. In this week’s edition, America’s Game of the Week on Fox leads the pack with most-watched game of the week, the Shamrock Series between Notre Dame and Wisconsin at Chicago’s Soldier Field won the day in college football, the 2021 WNBA season is the most-watched since 2008, and more.

America’s Game of the Week on Fox Leads the Pack as Most-Watched Game of the Week

America’s Game of the Week between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Los Angeles Rams was the most-watched telecast of the week on any network with 22,604,000 viewers. This also was Fox’s most-watched telecast since the NFC Championship in January.

Overall, the Week 3 slate drew 12,626,000 viewers, up +8% over last season’s comparable window (11,957,000)

On digital, America’s Game of the Week drew an AMA of 513,811 across Fox, NFL, and Yahoo! Sports properties (426,941 AMA), the most-streamed AGOTW this season. In addition, Fox NFL streaming is off to its second-best start ever with an AMA of 436,000 through three weeks. (Twitter)

Packers-49ers Thriller Is Most-Watched Week 3 Sunday Night Football Since 2015

The Green Bay Packers’ last-second 30-28 victory over the San Francisco 49ers last night on NBC and Peacock – which featured three scoring plays in the last two minutes and 39 seconds, including the Aaron Rodgers-led drive to the game-winning field goal as time expired – is the most-watched Week 3 NBC Sunday Night Football game since NBC Sports’ record-setting 2015 season, based on preliminary data.

Packers-49ers registered a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) average of approximately 21.1 million viewers across NBC TV, Peacock, NBC Sports Digital, and NFL Digital platforms – marking the largest Week 3 NBC SNF audience since Peyton Manning and the Broncos visited the Lions in 2015 (22.2 million TAD viewers) and up 14% from last year’s Week 3 SNF game (18.5 million TAD for Packers-Saints, 9/27/20).

For the first time since 2016, NBC Sports has presented an NFL game averaging 20+ million viewers in each of the season’s first three weeks.

NBC’s TV coverage (8:23 p.m.-11:31 p.m. ET) averaged approximately 20.2 million viewers, with a national TV household rating of 10.8/26 – up 8% from last year (10.0/22).

The Average Minute Audience (AMA) for last night’s live stream via Peacock, NBC Sports Digital platforms, NFL Digital platforms, Packers and 49ers mobile properties, and Yahoo Sports mobile properties was approximately 910,000 viewers – up 52% from last year’s game (600,000).

Top metered markets included Milwaukee (41.8/68), Sacramento (23.9/47), San Francisco (22.8/50), Minneapolis (16.6/34), Denver (16.2/34), Memphis (16.1/28), San Diego (15.5/32), Cleveland and Las Vegas (15.3/30), and Baltimore (14.6/29) (NBC Sports)

ESPN’s Monday Night Football Delivers Franchise’s Most-Watched Week 3 Game Since 2012 with 14.9 Million Viewers

ESPN’s presentation of the Monday Night Football matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys (September 27, 8 p.m. ET) delivered an audience of 14,904,000 viewers (ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes), the franchise’s most-watched Week 3 presentation since 2012. The viewership is slightly up from the highly anticipated Kansas City-Baltimore showdown in 2020’s Week 3 and up 40% from 2019’s Week 3 game (Chicago at Washington).

Additionally, the Eagles-Cowboys viewership continued a viewership trend, as ESPN also notched its most-watched Week 1 game since 2013 and its second most-watched Week 2 game since 2014 to go along with the aforementioned most-watched Week 3 game since 2012.

Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli (ESPN2) delivered an audience of 1.9 million viewers, the game presentation’s third straight week of viewership growth (1,899,000 viewers compare to 1,856,000 viewers in Week 2). The show’s two most recent episodes now represent ESPN’s most-watched alternate telecasts since the concept was largely adopted in 2014 (more than 30 presentations). The Super Bowl-winning brothers will return for Weeks 7 and 8 of Monday Night Football.

Viewership reported by Nielsen for ESPN and ESPN2 includes streaming audience across ESPN, NFL, and Yahoo Sports properties.

Through three weeks, ESPN’s Monday Night Football is averaging 14.7 million viewers (three games), up 23% from 2019 (four games) and 17% from 2020 (four games).

Additional Monday Night Football Highlights:

  • Monday Night Football was the most-watched telecast of the night among households, viewers, and all keys demos: Men 18-34, 18-49, 25-54 and 55+, as well as persons 18-34, 18-49, and 25-54 on ESPN.
  • Monday Night Football also helped ESPN become the most-watched network (broadcast and cable) in primetime among households, viewers and the same key male and people demos, including P55+ (ESPN)

Panthers-Texans Is Most-Watched NFL Network Exclusive Thursday Night Football Game Since 2018

Total viewership for last night’s Thursday Night Football game featuring the Carolina Panthers’ 24-9 win over the Houston Texans was 7.9 million viewers (TV + Digital) – slightly surpassing last week’s New York Giants vs. Washington Football Team game to make it NFL Network’s most-watched exclusive Thursday Night Football game since 2018 (New York Jets vs. Cleveland Browns, 2018 Week 3).

The 7.9 million viewers for Panthers-Texans on TV and Digital is up +35% versus last year’s Week 3 Thursday Night Football matchup between the Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars (5.8 million) and up +25% vs. the 2020 NFL Network exclusive Thursday Night Football three-game average (6.3 million P2+). Panthers-Texans was television’s most-watched telecast of the day.

Digital streaming across NFL digital platforms, Panthers and Texans mobile properties, and Yahoo Sports mobile properties delivered an average minute audience of 484K – up +26% vs. last year’s Dolphins-Jaguars game (384K). (NFL)

Notre Dame-Wisconsin is Saturday’s Most-Watched Game

5,369,000 viewers watched Notre Dame’s victory over Wisconsin in Big Noon Saturday’s game of the week. The contest was the most-watched college football game of the day, up +20% over 2019’s Big Ten Saturday average on Fox (4,457,000)

The game also earned an average minute audience of 98,452 on Fox Sports streaming services, up +16% over 2019’s Week 4 matchup. Through Week 4, college football on Fox is off to its best start ever, averaging 4,126,000 viewers and up +30 over 2019 season to date average (3,712,000 viewers).

College football streaming on Fox, FS1, FS2, and BTN is enjoying its best year to date as well, currently up +41% over 2019. (Twitter)

ESPN and ABC Win the Night for Third Straight College Football Saturday

ESPN networks saw several viewership gains during Week 4 of the college football season, including the third straight Saturday of ESPN and ABC winning the night in primetime, ranking as the most-viewed networks across all genres among all viewers and key adult demos. Additionally, ABC’s Saturday Night Football Presented by Capital One is the most-watched college football franchise heading into Week 5, averaging nearly 6.5 million viewers.

Saturday’s SNF matchup between West Virginia and Oklahoma was the second-most-viewed game across all networks in Week 4 with 4,502,000 average viewers, peaking with 6,273,000 viewers in the final moments of the game.

Week 4 gave ESPN one of its best viewership weeks in recent seasons, and ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 all aired their most-viewed Week 4 slates since 2017.

ESPN boasted its most-viewed Saturday quadruple-header since November 10, 2018, averaging 2,185,000 viewers in Week 4. LSU-Mississippi State was the most-viewed noon ET game on cable this year with 1,791,000 average viewers. Clemson-NC State (2,185,000 average viewers) was the most-viewed 3:30 p.m. game on cable this year and peaked with 4.5 million viewers in overtime.

Under the lights, Tennessee-Florida (3,282,000 average viewers) in primetime on ESPN was the second-most-viewed game on any cable network this year, while Arizona-Oregon (1,656,000 average viewers) was the most-viewed late-night game on any network this year.

College GameDay Built by The Home Depot registered 1,581,000 average viewers, winning Saturday morning from the Windy City with more than two million viewers in the final hour. (ESPN)

2021 WNBA Season Is Most-Watched Since 2008

WNBA games averaged 321,000 viewers across ESPN, ESPN2, ABC and CBS during the regular season, up 51% from last year and the league’s most-watched season in 13 years. This season included 11 windows on broadcast television (ABC + CBS), the league’s most in a season since at least two decades (NBC carried 10 in 2001 and 2002).

Games on the ESPN networks averaged 306,000, up 49% from last year (205K), up 24% from 2019 (246K) and the league’s highest average on the ESPN family of networks since 2009 (318K). Fifteen of the 24 games on the ESPN networks aired on either ESPN or ABC, compared to less than half (18) of last year’s expanded 37-game slate.

After bottoming out at 171,000 viewers in 2017, regular season WNBA viewership on ESPN/ABC has now increased in three of the last four seasons, last year’s shortened “bubble” campaign being the exception.

Shifting to the playoffs, Thursday’s single-elimination Liberty-Mercury game averaged 243,000, preceded by Wings-Sky at 239,000 — up a whopping 109% and 141% respectively from last year opposite unprecedented NBA playoff competition (Mystics-Mercury: 116K; Sun-Sky: 99K). Compared to 2019, Liberty-Mercury fell 2% (vs. Mercury-Sky: 247K) and Wings-Sky rose 8% (vs. Lynx-Storm: 221K). (SportsMediaWatch)

ESPN’s 2021 Season of Sunday Night Baseball Up 18% in Viewership from 2020

ESPN’s viewership for the 2021 season of Sunday Night Baseball was up 18% from 2020, according to Nielsen. Sunday Night Baseball averaged 1,456,000 viewers across its 24 telecasts.

This year marked the 32nd season of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball – the exclusive, national Major League Baseball game of the week. The franchise saw significant growth in the coveted 18-34 demos compared to last year, including:

  • Women 18-34: up 43%;
  • People 18-34: up 25%;
  • Men 18-34: up 17%.

Sunday Night Baseball viewership for 2021 was also up double-digits from 2020 among Women 18+ (20%), Women 18-49 (16%), People 12-24 (20%), People 18-49 (12%), People 12-17 (11%) and People 18+ (18%).

In addition, ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball saw double-digit gains across the 18-34 demographic when compared to the 2019 season:

  • Women 18-34: up 19%;
  • People 18-34: up 13%;
  • Men 18-34: up 11% (ESPN)

Braves on Bally Sports South Ratings Hit Season High

Before clinching the NL East on Thursday night, Wednesday night’s Atlanta Braves vs. Philadelphia Phillies telecast on Bally Sports South recorded a season-high 5.00 household rating in the Atlanta DMA. It was the highest-rated Braves telecast on the network since Sept. 20, 2019 against the San Francisco Giants (5.91)

The telecast peaked at a 5.98 HH rating at 9:45 p.m. ET., which was the highest quarter-hour rating since that 9/20 game in 2019 (6.81)

Univision TUDN’s Telecast of Paris St-Germain vs. Man City Delivers Second Best UEFA Champions League Group Stage Match Ever in the U.S.

Univision TUDN’s coverage of the UEFA Champions League is off to a fast start as the home of soccer has already delivered two of the most-watched Group Stage matches of all-time for the property in the U.S.

The early performance is being driven by Lionel Messi and Paris St-Germain, who have netted the No. 2 and No. 3 matches of all-time, regardless of language (trailing only Univision’s telecast of Barcelona vs. Juventus – 12.8.2020):

  • Paris St-Germain vs. Man City on Univision/TUDN (9/28)
    • Averaged 981,000 Total Viewers 2+ and 511,000 A 18-49
    • Peaked with 1.02 million Total Viewers 2+ during the 4:30 p.m. ET half-hour
  • Club Brugge vs. Paris St-Germain on Univision/TUDN (9/15)
  • Averaged 769,000 Total Viewers 2+ and 384,000 Adults 18-49
    • Peaked with 816,000 Total Viewers 2+ during 3 p.m. ET half-hour

Matches across Univision’s networks are up double digit advantages versus a year ago with an average audience of 485,000 Total Viewers 2+ (+39%) and 250,000 A18-49 (+38%).

2021 Ryder Cup Down From Previous U.S.-Based Editions

The final day of the Ryder Cup averaged a 2.1 rating and 3.51 million viewers on NBC Sunday, marking the lowest rated and least-watched Sunday of a U.S.-based Ryder Cup since at least 1997. The U.S. won in a record blowout.

Ratings fell 21% and viewership 18% from the last time the U.S. hosted the Ryder Cup in 2016 (2.7, 4.30M) but increased 19% and 32% respectively from the last time the event was held in Europe three years ago (1.8, 2.67M).

Saturday coverage averaged a 1.9 and 2.98 million, down 11% in ratings and 10% in viewership from ’16 (2.1, 3.31M) but up 16% and 31% respectively from ’18 (1.6, 2.27M).

Golf Channel’s Friday coverage chipped in a 0.9 and 1.48 million, actually up from the corresponding 2016 window (1.30M).  (SportsMediaWatch)

2021 NTT IndyCar Series Is Most-Watched Season in NBC Sports History

NBC Sports’ coverage of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES’ 2021 season delivered its most-watched INDYCAR season on record, NBCSN’s most-watched season on record, and the best combined broadcast/cable viewership for the series in five years.

For the 15 races across NBC, NBCSN and NBC Sports digital platforms, the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season averaged a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 1.223 million viewers, the best in NBC Sports history, up 19% vs. last season’s average viewership (1.027 million), up 10% vs. 2019 (1.108 million), and the most-watched season for the INDYCAR SERIES since 2016 (1.310 million, ABC/NBCSN).

INDYCAR SERIES coverage on NBCSN averaged 632,000 viewers this season, the best in the network’s history, up 46% vs. 2020 (432,000 viewers), and up 49% vs. 2019 (423,000). NBCSN delivered two of its top four most-watched races on record in 2021, headlined by the inaugural Music City Grand Prix in Nashville, which averaged a TAD of 1.212 million viewers to rank as the network’s most-watched INDYCAR SERIES race ever and believed to be the most-watched cable race for the series in 23 years (1998, 2.218 million, ESPN).

The 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 powered the NBC broadcast network to a substantial viewership increase this season. The “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” averaged 5.581 Million viewers, up 51% vs. 2020 and up 2% vs. 2019. For NBC’s eight races this season, the network averaged a TAD of 1.722 million viewers, up 16% as compared to 2020 (1.484 million).

In addition, 2021’s Mid-Ohio IndyCar race averaged a TAD of 1.303 million viewers to stand as NBC Sports’ most-watched IndyCar race to date, excluding Indy 500s. Viewership topped the previous NBC Sports record set during last year’s primetime Texas race on NBC (1.256 million). (NBC Sports)

NASCAR Cup Series in Las Vegas

The NASCAR Cup Series race was NBCSN’s No. 1 sports telecast of the week, earning a 1.21 rating and 2.10 million viewers. Viewership was up +6% (1.98 million) and the rating ws up +5% vs. 2020 Las Vegas II on NBCSN (1.15)

This is the sixth consecutive NCS race with YOY gains in viewership (Michigan–Las Vegas II) and the longest stretch of NCS races showing YOY viewership gains since 2011

At peak, the race garnered  2.2 million viewers.

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