Ratings Roundup: Packers-Chiefs Without Aaron Rodgers on Fox Tops NFL Week 9; NBA Viewership Increases From 2020-21 Regular Season Average
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, Packers-Chiefs delivers best NFL Sunday afternoon telecast this season, NBA viewership increases double-digits from 2020-21 regular season average, FOX’s Big Noon Saturday is most-watched window in college football, and more.
Packers-Chiefs Delivers Best NFL Sunday Afternoon Telecast This Season
The Kansas City Chiefs victory of the Green Bay Packers in America’s Game of the Week garnered 24.4 million viewers, which is the best NFL Sunday afternoon telecast on any network this season. The game was also the most-watched telecast of the week on any network and was up +7% over last year’s comparable window (22.8 million).
The Fox NFL regional window saw 15.2 million viewers, which was up +48% over last year’s comparable delivery (10.3 million). In addition, the doubleheader average was 19.5 million viewers, which is up +21% compared to last year for Fox’s Week 9 singleheader (16.1 million) and up +18% over las year’s comparable doubleheader average (16.5 million)
ESPN’s Monday Night Football’s Week 9 Draws 12.2 Million; Up 18% YoY and Delivers MNF’s Seventh Consecutive Week of Growth
In NFL Week 9, ESPN’s Monday Night Football generated year-over-year audience growth for the seventh straight week and the eighth game in nine weeks this season, as more than 12.2 million viewers (ESPN and ESPN Deportes) watched the Chicago Bears at the Pittsburgh Steelers (Nov. 8, 8 p.m. ET). The ESPN-only audience of 12,103,000 was up 18% from Week 9 in 2020, the fifth week this season where Monday Night Football grew its audience more than 14%. The viewership also represents the second best MNF Week 9 audience since 2014.
Viewership reported by Nielsen for ESPN includes streaming audience across ESPN, NFL and Yahoo Sports properties.
Monday Night Football continues its most-watched season since 2014, averaging 13.5 million viewers per game through nine weeks. In addition to being up 17% over 2020 and 13% over 2019, the franchise is also up double digits compared to every season since 2015. Further details on the strong 2021 viewership for Monday Night Football and ESPN’s NFL studio shows was released earlier this week.
Additional Highlights for Bears-Steelers:
- Monday Night Football was the most-watched telecast of the night among households, viewers and all key 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+
Thursday Night Football Hits Low for Jets-Colts
The latest edition of Thursday Night Football (Jets-Colts) averaged a 6.7 rating and 11.65 million viewers on FOX and NFL Network, down 11% in ratings and 12% in viewership from last year, which faced presidential election competition (Packers-49ers: 7.5, 13.17M), and down 21% and 17% from 2019 (49ers-Cardinals: 8.5, 14.00M).
The Colts’ easy win ranks as the lowest rated and least-watched TNF simulcast since Giants-Eagles opposite a presidential debate last year (5.9, 10.07M). Outside of that game, it was the lowest rated and least-watched since December 2018 (Jaguars-Titans: 6.7, 10.76M). (SportsMediaWatch)
NBA Viewership Increases Double-Digits From 2020-21 Regular Season Average
ESPN’s NBA viewership across its event and studio coverage is up double-digits so far this season, according to Nielsen. Through 12 games, the NBA on ESPN is averaging 1,439,000 viewers, up 20 percent from the 2020-21 regular season average of 1,197,000 viewers.
Additionally, ESPN NBA games are up significantly in all coveted demographics from the 2020-21 regular season average, including:
- Adults 18-49: up 28%
- Adults 18-34: up 26%
- Adults 35-49: up 30%
- Hispanic audience: up 50%
- Women: up 26%
- Men: up 18%
ESPN has won the night across cable in all six coveted demographics three times already. The NBA on ESPN routinely wins the night on cable amongst Adults 18-34, Adults 18-49, Adults 25-54, Men 18-34, Men 18-49 and Men 25-54.
ESPN is also experiencing double-digit audience increases for its new-look NBA Countdown show as well as its new daily studio show, NBA Today. NBA Countdown has averaged 536,000 viewers for its first six shows, up 34 percent from the 2020-21 regular season average (399,000 viewers). Through November 5, the 11 NBA Today shows that have aired on ESPN have averaged 297,000 viewers, up 29 percent from the same timeslot during the 2020-21 regular season.
FOX’s Big Noon Saturday Is Most-Watched Window in College Football
Fox’s Big Noon Saturday window is the most-watched college football time slot across any network, averaging 5,204,000 viewers (through Week 10).
The Ohio State-Nebraska match was the day’s most-watched telecast on any network with 5,328,000 viewers, nearly doubling 2019’s comparable Week 10 game (+97%, 2,710,000 viewers of Nebraska-Purdue).
Big Noon Kickoff, which started at 11 a.m. ET, posted 1,273,000 viewers, up +57% over 2019’s Week 10 performance (812,000).
LSU-Alabama Is ESPN’s Most-Viewed Game Since 2019 as ESPN Networks Own Primetime in College Football’s Week 10
ESPN networks had one of their strongest overall weekends of the 2021 college football season, as ESPN and ESPN2 both aired their most-watched games in years during Week 10. Fueling the year-over-year growth were two compelling Southeastern Conference showdowns – LSU and Alabama on ESPN, and Tennessee at Kentucky on ESPN2. Overall, ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 were all up significantly from Week 10 in both 2019 and 2020.
The most-watched game of the weekend on ESPN networks was LSU at Alabama (7 p.m. ET, ESPN), averaging 5 million viewers – the most-viewed college football game on cable this year. The primetime presentation was the top game in Week 10 among key male and adult demos (18-34, 18-49, 25-54). The audience was up 18 percent from the same matchup in 2020 and peaked with 6 million viewers from 10-10:15 p.m. in the final minutes of the game.
Tennessee at Kentucky (7 p.m., ESPN2) averaged 1.5 million viewers, ESPN2’s most-viewed game in more than three years (Auburn at Mississippi State, Oct. 6, 2018). ESPN2 also registered a strong showing with Friday night’s Virginia Tech at Boston College matchup (7:30 p.m., ESPN2), notching 1.2 million viewers. Season-to-date, ESPN and ESPN2 are well ahead of the pack as the top two most-viewed college football cable networks, with ESPN2 up 20 percent from 2019 and up 97 percent from 2020.
ABC’s top game on Saturday was Purdue’s upset of Big Ten rival Michigan State (3:30 p.m.), which scored 4.4 million viewers and was the top game of the late afternoon window.
In the average minute, 9 million viewers and 2.8 million P18-49 viewers were watching college football on ESPN networks. The audience peaked with nearly 10 million viewers from 8:15-8:30 p.m. ESPN networks had the top two college football games in primetime, and ESPN and ABC ranked as the top 2 networks from 8-11 p.m. among all viewers. Among P18-49 viewers, ESPN, ABC and ESPN2 ranked as three of the top four networks in primetime Saturday.
Viewership across ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 is up at least double digits from Week 10 in 2020 and 2019. ABC aired its most-viewed Week 10 since 2016 and was up 59 percent from the same week in 2020 and 13 percent from 2019. ESPN was up triple digits from both 2020 (136 percent) and 2019 (103 percent), while ESPN2 had above-average audiences in nearly every window and was up 135 percent from the same week in 2020 and up 27 percent from 2019.
College GameDay Built by The Home Depot‘s first-ever visit to Cincinnati registered 1,826,000 viewers, tops among Saturday morning college football pregame shows with 2,376,000 viewers in the final hour. The show is up eight percent and 47 percent from the Week 10 telecasts in 2019 and 2020, respectively, and this is the second straight week of growth among P2+ viewers over the 2019 season.
World Series Wrap-Up
11, 750,000 viewers watched the 20201 World Series on Fox. The series was up +20% over last year’s six game average of 9,829,900 and was the most-streamed World Series in Fox Sports history with an AMA of 227,164 (up +49% year-over-year).
In Game 7, 14,305,000 viewers watched the Atlanta Braves win their first World Series since 1995 with a 7-0 win over the Houston Astros across Fox, Fox Deportes, and Fox streaming platforms.
The game was up +10% over 2020 Game 6 on Fox (12,705,000) and peaked from 11:30-11:34 at 16,259,000 viewers. Game 6 was the most-streamed Game 6 in Fox Sports history with an AMA of 311,547, up +27% vs. previous record (2017 Dodgers-Astros Game 6).
In Game 5, 13,933,000 viewers watched the Houston Astros win across Fox, Fox Deportes, Fox Sports streaming services. On Fox alone, the game averaged 13,644,000 viewers.
The game was up +35% over last year’s Game 5 delivery of 10,134,000 viewers and up +19% over 2019’s 11,454,000 viewers. The game peaked with 15,358,000 viewers from 10:15-10:30 p.m. ET
In Game 4, 10,771,000 viewers watched a Braves win across Fox, Fox Deportes, and Fox Sports streaming services. On Fox alone, the game averages1 10,511,000 viewers.
The game was up +12% over last year’s Game 4 delivery of 9,379,000 viewers and up +2% over 2019’s 10,276,000 viewers. The game also peaked with 13,150,000 viewers from 11:30-11:45 p.m. ET.
Formula 1 Has Triumphant Return to North America; Viewers Respond to U.S., Mexican Grand Prix Telecasts
After an absence of two years due to the pandemic, the FIA Formula 1 World Championship made a triumphant return to North America over the past two weeks and television viewers in the United States tuned in, continuing a season-long trend of strong viewership for the races across ESPN networks.
The Oct. 24 Formula 1 Aramco United States Grand Prix from Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, averaged 1.2 million viewers during the live telecast on ABC, with a viewership peak of 1.6 million. It was the most-viewed race since ESPN reacquired Formula 1 rights prior to the 2018 season and the average viewership was up 42 percent from 2019, the last year the race was run.
The Nov. 7 Mexican Grand Prix from Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City attracted an average audience of 968,000 viewers, peaking at 1.2 million, making it the most-viewed Mexican Grand Prix since the race’s rebirth in 2015.
The 2021 Formula 1 season is now averaging 947,000 viewers across ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC, an increase of 56 percent over the shifted 2020 season (608,000 viewers) and up 41 percent over the 2019 season average (672,000 viewers).
This year’s average of 947,000 viewers is 44 percent higher than the first 17 races in the 2019 season (658,000 average viewers).
Only four races remain in the 2021 Formula 1 season, starting with this weekend’s event in Brazil (Sunday, 11:55 a.m., ESPN2 and in Spanish on ESPN Deportes).
Formula 1 returned to its original U.S. television home in 2018 – the first race ever aired in the country was on ABC in 1962. F1 races also aired on ESPN from 1984-1997.
“Foxtober” Delivers Record Numbers and Key Gains Across Linear and Digital Platforms
From the Atlanta Braves’ first World Series title in more than two decades, to the triumphant scene in East Lansing and all the way back to the Fox Lot in Los Angeles, Fox Sports continues to own the fall across the country. “Foxtober” delivered record numbers across linear and digital platforms, as exemplified below.
2021 World Series on Fox
The World Series on Fox averaged 11,750,000 viewers for six games, up +20% over last year’s six game average of 9,820,000 viewers.
NFL on Fox
For the month of October, the NFL on Fox averaged 17,457,000 viewers, up +7% over last year’s October average (Weeks 4-8 vs. Weeks 4-7).
Thursday Night Football on Fox
For the month of October, the Thursday Night Football package on Fox averaged 15,697,000 viewers, up +25% over last year’s season-to-date average of 12,582,000 viewers.
Fox College Football
College football is off to its best start ever on Fox. Fox’s Big Noon Saturday featuring Michigan and Michigan State averaged 9,289,000 viewers to rank as the most-watched regular season college football game on any network so far this season.
Skip and Shannon: Undisputed
Skip and Shannon: Undisputed had its best October on record. The show averaged 199,000 viewers, +9% better than their previous October high of 182,000 viewers in 2019.
The Herdhad its best October on record. The show averaged 168,000 viewers, +4% higher than its previous October best of 161,000 viewers in 2019.
NASCAR RACE HUB garnered its best October in seven years, averaging 156,000 viewers.
October was the most-consumed month ever for Fox Sports Digital, including the most streaming views (244,000,000) and most social views (631,000,000).
ESPN First Take Sees Continued Viewership Growth with 10 Percent Year-Over-Year Increase in October
ESPN’s signature morning debate show First Take – featuring Stephen A. Smith and host Molly Qerim Rose – saw continued audience growth in Oct. First Take’s viewership was up 10 percent year over year from Oct. 2020, averaging 431,000 viewers. October also marked the highest monthly viewership average since Jan. 2020.
The month culminated with First Take’s return to roadshows, when the show traveled to Florida A&M for the Will Packer Amphitheater dedication and homecoming weekend on Oct. 29.
October’s success adds to an overall trend for the show, which has now seen annual viewership growth in five of the last six months.
NASCAR Cup, Xfinity Series Deliver Viewership Gains Across NBC Sports in 2021
NBC Sports once again produced a number of viewership milestones for its 2021 NASCAR coverage, including year-over-year viewership increases for both the Cup and Xfinity Series and and NBC Sports’ most-streamed seasons for both series on record.
NBC Sports’ 2021 NASCAR Cup Series viewership across NBC and NBCSN produced a Total Audience Delivery of 2.562 million viewers, according to Nielsen and digital data from Adobe Analytics, slightly up vs. viewership for the comparable races on NBC and NBCSN in 2020 (2.560 million viewers), excluding weather-impacted races.
The Cup Series season was capped by Kyle Larson’s first-career championship last Sunday at Phoenix Raceway on NBC, which produced a TAD of 3.274 million viewers (1.95 HH rating, 3.214 million TV-only), up 6% from last season’s championship race on NBC (3.093 million viewers) to rank as the most-watched fall Phoenix race since 2018.
Additional Cup Series viewership highlights:
- More than half (11 of 20) of the race windows saw year-over-year viewership gains vs. 2020, including six consecutive races from Michigan (Aug. 22) to Las Vegas (Sept. 26);
- Indianapolis (Aug. 15 on NBC) and Michigan (Aug. 22 on NBCSN) were the highest-rated sports events of their respective weekends;
- Indianapolis, Michigan, Road America (July 4 on NBC) and Daytona (Aug. 28 on NBC) made NBC/NBCSN the most-watched TV network during their window.
The 2021 Cup Series also featured the first-ever simul-streamed races on Peacock (Texas, Martinsville and Phoenix) and delivered NBC Sports’ most-streamed NASCAR season record in terms of Average Minute Audience (30,000 viewers) and total minutes (109 million minutes). The Phoenix Cup and Xfinity Series races rank as NBC Sports’ most-streamed NASCAR races on record.
Knoxville led all markets for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series on NBC and NBCSN with a 5.3 local rating, followed by Greenville-Spartanburg (4.6) and Greensboro-High Point (4.2). Following are the Top 10 markets for 2021 campaign:
- Knoxville (5.3)
- Greenville-Spartanburg (4.6)
- Greensboro-High Point (4.2)
- Charlotte (3.3)
- Hartford-New Haven (3.3)
- Richmond (3.2)
- Louisville (3.1)
- Birmingham (3.0)
- Nashville (3.0)
- Dayton (2.8)
- Raleigh-Durham (2.8)
NBC Sports also saw viewership gains for its coverage of the 2021 Xfinity Series, producing a TAD of 982,000 viewers to rank as its most-watched Xfinity Series season since 2018, up 6% vs. 2020 (924,000).
Saturday night’s championship race in Phoenix on NBCSN produced a TAD of more than 1 million viewers (1.030 million), up 4% vs. last year. This season also marked NBC Sports’ most-streamed Xfinity Series year on-record in terms of AMA and total minutes.
ESPN Digital Records Second-Highest Month Ever with 116 Million U.S. Users in September
ESPN Digital led the sports category in the month of September, reaching 116 million users – its second-highest month ever behind January 2020 and best September on record. Notably, ESPN’s lead in total minutes increased from 946 million in August to 3.7 billion in September – the largest gap since October 2017. ESPN on YouTube reached 26.5 million unique visitors in September, the second-highest mark ever and the SportsNation YouTube channel nearly tripled its unique visitors from the previous month to 15.2 million.
The ESPN Appsaw 25.3 million users in September, also the second-highest mark ever behind September 2019. The Fantasy Appmoved into the second slot in the rankings, with 10.2 million users, also its second-highest user count behind September 2019.
ESPN Social ranked number one in sports media across every social platform – with the most followers and the most engagements. Over the past year, ESPN Social averaged 12 million engagements and 325 million impressions per day. ESPN Social led the sports media category in actions across Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and Facebook for 12 of the past 13 months (source: Shareablee).
ESPN Digital Live Shows drew 16.5 million total views in September. The College Football Show presented by AT&T led the way with one million views per show, up 18 percent year-over-year. Fantasy Focus Live grew by 16 percent year-over-year on YouTube, boosting the livestream of the podcast to 2.8M total views and more than 44 million minutes watched for the month.